Reader's View: We all have to help young Idahoans reach their potential

October 27, 2013 

As the Idaho Statesman recently reported, fewer than half of the state’s high school graduates are pursuing a college degree immediately following graduation. Of those 8,000 students, a bit more than two-thirds attend Idaho institutions of higher education, including the College of Idaho.

There is rightfully cause for concern about the number of Idaho’s young people going on to college.

Among educators, public officials and grass-roots community organizations, there has emerged a heartening consensus on practical and effective measures to boost our college-going rate.

The bar is continually being raised in our global economy.

More than ever, young people must be able to think critically, solve problems, communicate well and adapt to changing technologies in order to succeed in their careers. For our state to thrive in the decades to come, our youngest workers must also thrive. Just getting by is not good enough.

While we are rightfully concerned, there are reasons for optimism.

We should be proud that more of Idaho’s brightest young people are choosing to attend the fine institutions of higher education here, including the College of Idaho.

During the current academic year approximately three-quarters of the C of I’s undergraduate students (845 to be exact) are Idaho residents. Since we are celebrating the College of Idaho’s largest-ever enrollment this fall, that also means we are educating more students from Idaho this year than at any time since our founding in 1891.

Idahoans are rightfully proud of their state, and given the opportunity, many young people prefer to stay here as they pursue a college degree.

That’s why the College of Idaho and our sister institutions are continually innovating to make it more attractive for high school students to attend college in their home state.

For example, the C of I added a computer science major this year to serve students who are interested in that career path and meet the demands of the Treasure Valley’s thriving high technology sector.

To take another example, we re-established the College of Idaho’s football program, creating the only small college football program in the state.

High school graduates interested in college football at a small school now have an opportunity to pursue their education in Idaho while playing the sport they love.

Others also are working diligently to encourage more high school graduates to continue their education.

The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation has contributed millions of dollars through its Go On campaign to boost enrollment in postsecondary education opportunities in the state.

The Treasure Valley Family Y, United Way, Caldwell Schools, Albertson Foundation and other partners are working together through the P-16 Program to ensure that all children in the Caldwell School District are academically, socially and emotionally ready to start school, and providing afterschool programs that will better prepare its graduates for postsecondary education.

The Treasure Valley Educational Partnership and Idaho Business for Education are undertaking similar efforts for the Treasure Valley and the state as a whole.

Yet more is required to help Idaho retain its brightest young people and prepare them for leadership in their professions and communities.

We need more adults volunteering to serve as mentors to young people.

We need businesses to create internship opportunities for high school students.

We need parents encouraging their children to dream big and get outside of their comfort zones.

We need Idaho’s colleges and universities to continue innovating and make sure young people can afford a great education.

Each of us has a role to play in helping our young people thrive in the world. Help our state make that future a reality.

Marvin Henberg is president of the College of Idaho.

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