In the big picture of Idaho’s economic and educational aspirations there is a need for the expanded presence and growth of the College of Western Idaho. The Nampa school has been nimble in responding to employer needs and training students to fill jobs — while offering an affordable option for otherwise skittish high school graduates who are giving college a test run.
For these and other reasons, we support passage of the school’s $180 million bond.
Idaho’s goal of getting 60 percent of those ages 25 to 34 to earn a degree or pursue a certificate by 2020 won’t likely be met. But a job-placing, accessible option — CWI argues it costs half what public universities charge and one-quarter of private colleges — can accelerate the momentum by expanding in Nampa and building a new Boise campus over the next few years.
The $180 million general obligation bond that requires a two-thirds vote to pass Nov. 8 is a big ask for voters. The school estimates a cost of $22 per $100,000 of taxable home value annually for the next 25 years to pay for it. If passed by Ada and Canyon county voters, it will pay for:
▪ A health science and central service buildings in Nampa by 2019.
▪ A Boise campus academic-professional center by 2020.
▪ A Student Success Center and career technical facilities presence on the Nampa campus by 2021.
▪ Upgrades/retrofits to other buildings and infrastructure, and land costs.
Government requests for funding our schools, purchasing open space and building emergency service infrastructure keep coming. All of these take a bite out of our pocketbooks. For instance: Beyond the CWI request, Meridian voters are being asked on Nov. 8 to chip in on the worthy causes of a $12 million library bond and a $20 million recreation bond.
In evaluating the CWI request, we look at it through the filter of return on investment. We have watched CWI grow from 1,200 students in 2009 to 20,000. Over this time 5,000 students have earned technical certificates or associate degrees — and many of these have gone on to Idaho’s four-year colleges and universities. Of those students who completed professional-technical programs, CWI says, 91 percent have been placed in jobs.
Looking at CWI’s master plans, we understand — and voters should, too — that more funding requests will come down the road to build out facilities in future phases of the Boise campus. So it is incumbent upon CWI President Bert Glandon and the school’s board of trustees to manage well and avoid some of the stumbles it faced in recent months: a lack of transparency surrounding its purchase of the Boise campus property and the mess-up that disqualified a trustee candidate from the upcoming election.
The school estimates that its new facilities could serve thousands more students, particularly from the Boise end of the Treasure Valley. The school knows community college attendance is most intense within 15 miles of the campus, so providing new opportunities at the edge of Downtown Boise has plenty of upside.
CWI growth in Boise would be an attractive option for local high school graduates and would contribute to other exciting enhancements in the Whitewater Park Boulevard corridor. We hope voters see the wisdom in approving its expansion now so the economic and educational impacts can materialize sooner rather than later.
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