Friday Letter 2017-01-13:
The Task for Idaho Higher Education
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Last week, Gov. Otter announced the formation of a Higher Education Task Force to develop a five-year plan for higher education in Idaho, building on the work of the K-12 task force, whose 2013 recommendations are in the third year of implementation. The Higher Education Task Force has the same potential to influence policymaking. The 28-member committee will be comprised of higher education administrators, business and community leaders, and students. I look forward to studying the issues and working with my fellow task force members to develop recommendations that strengthen higher education in Idaho.
My responsibility on the committee is to take a balanced view of systemwide needs, but also to advance an understanding of how our land-grant, national research university adds to the higher education landscape in Idaho. In other words, how can our state’s system be improved, and how can Idaho invest so that higher education contributes even greater value? I’m interested to assess how we can better use UI’s strengths: making higher education accessible to Idaho citizens, conducting innovative research that unlocks new knowledge and spurs economic development, and engaging with the communities we serve.
My presidency has focused in large part on bringing more Idahoans into higher education. The state’s 60 percent goal for postsecondary completion is an important marker, and we will need new ideas and new investments to achieve that goal. Enhancing Idaho’s college-going culture was the motivation for the Direct Admissions program — a program that benefits not just UI but all Idaho higher education institutions — and for our many other efforts to expand college access and retain affordability. We know that higher education is increasingly essential for individual success. More than 95 percent (11.5 million) of new jobs created since the Great Recession have gone to people with at least some postsecondary education. Want a great job? Want a great life? Now more than ever, it starts with going to college.
Public investment in affordable postsecondary education is critical if we want to help students get to college and succeed there. I want to make sure our investment in higher education — an investment that already delivers returns many times over — is aligned in the most effective and efficient way possible to meet the demands of our students and our state in a fast-changing economy. We have partnerships with the K-12 system, with fellow higher education institutions, and with businesses and communities that can all be enhanced to deliver even greater returns.
I share Gov. Otter’s confidence in the task force members, led by Linda Clark, State Board of Education member, and Bob Lokken, the CEO of White Cloud Analytics and president of Idaho Business for Education. I look forward to hearing from my fellow task force members, and to exploring how the state can ensure that UI and all our partners can do more to help Idaho continue to grow and thrive.