Local panel recommends EITC transition to a community college

Education

IDAHO FALLS — Results from a socioeconomic study announced Tuesday recommend that Eastern Idaho Technical College should transition into a community college.

If the plan were to be implemented, the technical college would keep its vocational programs while adding options for an Associate of Science or Associate of Arts degree.

Through this comprehensive study, members of a community college study panel concluded there is a need for a community college in eastern Idaho.

The study began earlier this year when Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper and Ammon mayor Dana Kirkham created a panel to look at the issue.

“The two mayors felt it was important to bring in a group of citizens who haven’t been tied to that community college discussion,” Rick Aman, president of Eastern Idaho Technical College, told EastIdahoNews.com.

The panel recommended the school transition to a community college based on the national and regional statistics, labor market indicators, and need for increased education opportunities.

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“There’s a tremendous need for community college here,” panel chairman Park Price says. “We looked at all the other regions in the state. They all have community colleges and they’ve benefitted tremendously. So have the students.”

Price said students are more likely to take advantage of the community college because of the affordability.

“At a community college, you can get a general education credit for $120 a credit hour,” Price says. “If you go to a four year institution, it’s $335 a credit hour for general education.”

Administrators say the need to retain millennials is essential to the work force and economic growth of east Idaho.

“What happens in this area is kids leave and we can’t afford to have the most precious resource we have leave the area,” Price says. “We need to have them stay around here and become part of the work force we need here.”

Transitioning to a community college comes with a price tag.

The results of the study determined the need for a taxing district, which would increase property taxes in Idaho Falls.

Aman says although some funds would be taken from property taxes, a majority of the cost would be covered by the state of Idaho and through increased enrollment.

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Study panel chairman Park Price reading report results.

“The study shows pretty clearly that any cost that would be incurred in order to create community college would be more than made up for in the economic impact and the advantage that it brings to eastern Idaho,” Aman said.

The study showed over six years, EITC could transition to having several thousand full-time students with out any addition or modification to its structures.

“Currently EITC has got 66 acres and about six buildings that we use for 700 students,” Aman says. “In doing the work for this, we know that we can go to 4,000 without increasing any of the buildings.”

Ultimately the citizens will have to decide on the result of a community college.

Aman said the next reasonable time to have the option on voting ballots would be May 2017.

For information on the community college study go to the Research and Development Center’s website, and search “Eastern Idaho Community College Report.”

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