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State Board of Education advances effort to create community college in Idaho Falls


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IDAHO FALLS — The Idaho State Board of Education has given its stamp of approval for the creation of a two-year community college in Eastern Idaho.

“The board is very supportive of the formation of this new opportunity for students in Eastern Idaho to receive excellent post-secondary education,” Board President Emma Atchley said.

On Friday, the board met via teleconference to approve a resolution of whether or not a community college taxing district was needed in Bonneville County. The five of eight members who were present voted unanimously to approve the resolution. The resolution was in response to a local petition that was recently certified by the Bonneville County Elections office to create the taxing district.

A community college taxing district is required to turn Eastern Idaho Technical College into the College of Eastern Idaho. The district will provide some of the financial needs for the university.

Now that the State Board of Education has cast its approval, Bonneville County commissioners can prepare for the measure to be put on the ballot this May.

Atchley commended the community leaders who were heading the efforts to create the College of Eastern Idaho. She said she was impressed by the thorough studies that had been done.

“It was very thoughtful process. They took plenty of time to do the research. They did not hurry. They have made an excellent case,” Atchley said. “I wanted to express my thanks to the mayor and leaders in the community that took this effort and went to the lengths that they did to do it.”

Members of the board agreed that requirements set by Idaho State Code have been met to form the college. These standards include having a petition for the college with at least 1,000 local signatures certified by the county clerk, identifying opportunities for post-secondary education that exist in a community and projecting enrollment figures for a prospective college.

Discussions about turning EITC into a community college began in 2014, when a community discussion group was formed. The group was tasked with looking into the feasibility of a community college to see if there was support in the community.

In December 2015, the state board was formally brought into the process when Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper presented the initial investigation made by the discussion group. And in 2016, a community college study panel was formed to research if there was a need for a community college in Eastern Idaho.

The panel determined Eastern Idaho did need a community college through research gathered from national statistics, labor market indicators and the need for increased education opportunities. All of this information was placed in the Community College Study Panel Report.

Eastern Idaho Technical College President Rick Aman expressed gratitude to the state board during the meeting.

“Thank you so much to the members of the board for bringing this forward. Clearly in my mind (this) is long overdue, and the timing I think is going to work out very well,” Aman said. “Based on the work that we’ve done with the study panel, it looks like this could be a very viable enterprise and work very well in Eastern Idaho, both for the students, and for economic development.”