Voters in Eastern Idaho have overwhelmingly approved converting a technical school into a community college. More than 70% of Bonneville County residents who voted in Tuesday’s election agreed to create a community college tax district. The initiative needed at least a two-thirds majority to pass.
Bonneville County residents will now pay an expected $13 per year to help pay for the college. But the school will also get money from both the state and federal government, including $5 million promised by Governor “Butch” Otter. Now the new College of Eastern Idaho could offer courses as early as August.
The residents in Bonneville County have spoken. Prospective student, Thomas Wright, was enrolling into programs at ETIC on Wednesday. He says, "I've had a few family members tell me that it's not going to last long, they don't think, but other than that they'll just see how it goes."
Despite the number of residents who didn’t agree with the community college district tax, the super majority said “yes” it’s time for a community college in Eastern Idaho. The President of Eastern Idaho Technical College Dr. Rick Aman says, “Soon enough we will become Idaho's fourth community college."
The name will soon be changed to College of Eastern Idaho (CEI). Aman says, "We can begin rather quickly. Ninety days is almost unheard of in starting a new institution like this."
By August 21st, in addition to technical classes the school provides, CEI will now have to offer four year university transfer courses. "Those are in the areas of science, biology, and math. It could be humanities, it could be theater. It could be communication. It could be education,” Aman said.
With some preexisting benefits such as being an accredited campus. There isn’t a need for new infrastructure at EITC with its existing buildings. The college will bring more teachers too. This means new opportunities for adjunct professors in the region. Aman says, "We have the U of I (University of Idaho) and ISU (Idaho State University) at university place. They turn out wonderful graduates, and we also have BYU-I (Brigham Young University-Idaho) close as well. So it's going to be relatively easy to hire new faculty."
Tuition could change. Right now the college offers classes at $110 per credit, Aman adds, "Community college tuition would be $130. The highest is $138. We would still be below the average for the existing three community colleges. But it would rise above the $110 right now. School officials say when the Board of Trustees have been appointed they will work next on a new logo for the new community college. They hope to keep the same colors and format.
The new community college will have an impact on Idaho State University enrollment. ISU officials say there will be upsides and downsides to the new college. One up side is that more residents will be able to afford high education. Another positive, ISU expects the community college to cause more people to enroll at ISU in the long run. This is with the hope students will do two years at the new College of Eastern Idaho and then get higher degrees at Idaho State University. But before ISU enrollment numbers go up, they will take a dip. The former Dean of ISU’S Idaho Falls Campus, Lyle Castle, says “We're going to go through a period where we shrink, before we grow again. You know, now we will be sharing lower division with another college."
Currently 1400 students attend classes at the Idaho Falls ISU Campus.