A new year gives CEI chance to reflect on where it’s been, where it’s at and where it’s going
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IDAHO FALLS — Ringing in a New Year is a reflective time for many people, and it’s no different for College of Eastern Idaho administrators.
CEI transitioned from a technical college to a community college in 2017, and heading into year three, CEI President Rick Aman says goals have been met, new ones set and promises kept. Aman is proud of the state of the college, and he feels the community should be too.
“For being in existence two years (as) a two-year college, we’ve really hit the ground running,” Aman said.
In its first year as a fully accredited community college, CEI estimated it would have 1,500 student enrollments, but actually ended up with more than 2,000. From last fall to this fall, CEI is up about 26 percent in its enrollment, Aman said.
“When there are a lot of jobs and a scarcity of employees, traditionally, colleges and universities have low enrollment. That’s the case right now with the exception of us,” Aman said. “That’s indicative of a new college. We’re unique in that sense. That’s why the growth is occurring.”
The growth is also positively impacting taxpayers, as the locals are paying slightly less in property taxes than estimated when the taxing district was created. Taxpayers originally agreed on about $15 per 100,000 of assessed property value, but they are paying about $14.
“We want the community to know that it’s (CEI) working out even better than they ever imagined,” CEI spokesman Todd Wightman said.
CEI wants to continue benefiting students and the community by putting more emphasis on six areas.
1. General education
CEI had 349 high school students taking college classes last year and halfway through 2019-20, it has 323.
“Our big pitch is that we’ll help those students with college-level classes,” Aman said. “They’ll come to us when they graduate (high school), and we’ll move them as juniors to a university with no debt. We’re $129 a credit, which is about a third of what it costs as a university.”
Two new nursing programs are being rolled out in an effort to meet the demand for nurses in Idaho.
“Nursing is just explosive,” Aman said.
About 100 students will graduate a year with the addition of the programs, whereas a few years ago, the number was at 40.
Aman said the proximity of Idaho National Laboratory creates opportunities, and CEI plans to dig deeper into networking, software and app development to prepare students for the workforce.
“It is so unique for a college like this to be this close to a national lab and the potential then for our students to be trained to go into that lab is phenomenal,” Aman said.
Aman doesn’t know of anyone in Idaho doing solar training, and CEI is looking into doing exactly that.
“We would train technicians how to measure power coming off of solar panels, how much power is retained in a battery and how much is lost when it gets pushed into a building,” Aman said. “There’s something called net metering where clean power can be pushed into the grid. Those are all things that we should be doing here.”
5. Workforce training
There were over 16,000 noncredit students (no credit or degree attached) in CEI’s workforce development program last year, and that number could grow.
“You need a trained workforce in eastern Idaho,” Aman said. “We can do (that nondegree training) in less than a year.”
6. Online learning
Students will soon be able to earn an Associate of Arts degree all online.
“We serve a pretty rural area, we have nine counties and practical application of that is, how do we get a full degree out to a remote area?” Aman said.
Online delivery, along with the five other goals, is part of why Aman says the region is better with CEI than without it.
“This is a wonderful place to start,” Aman said. “I know a lot of our students are going to go on and finish their bachelor’s, master’s, PhDs, and we’ll be looking back from the future and going, ‘This individual started at CEI.'”