College of Western Idaho fills a critical need as state’s economy grows

Correction: An earlier version of this Idaho Statesman Editorial Board opinion incorrectly identified the College of Western Idaho measure that will appear on voters’ ballots. It’s a $39 million levy.

By just about any measure, the College of Western Idaho has been a resounding success, exceeding the hopes of even its most fervent supporters. That is why we enthusiastically endorse the college’s $39 million levy to construct a new health sciences building.

CWI began offering classes in 2009. Nine years later it has an enrollment of 33,000 students, the highest enrollment of any college or university in Idaho. According to CWI President Bert Glandon, it is the fastest growing community college in the United States.

One of the commonest concerns we hear from current and prospective Idaho businesses is the lack of skilled employees in the Idaho workforce. This is where CWI fills a critical need as we look to continuing Idaho’s economic growth. The college is constantly working with the private sector to determine their skill needs and creating or modifying its training programs.

More Treasure Valley individuals work in the health care industry than in any other business. As our population continues to grow and our population ages, the demand of health care services will continue to expand. According to the Idaho Department of Labor, Idaho is going to need 10,000 more health care workers by 2024. Many of those future workers will be trained by CWI.

One of the issues that could restrict the ability of CWI to help meet these employment possibilities is classroom space. Health care courses often require specialized classroom and laboratory space, which CWI does not have. Because of its rapid growth, class facilities are spread out through numerous locations — some owned by the college and others leased.

The college has come up with a well thought out solution. It is proposing a new $49 million health sciences building in Nampa. When built, the building will allow an additional 2,500 students annually to have access to CWI health science programs. The Idaho Legislature has already approved a $10 million state appropriation for the project.

The Nov. 6 ballot measure would fund the remaining $39 million with a district-wide property tax levy. The levy would be paid off in 10 years. The college estimates an approximate tax impact of $8.42 per $100,000 of taxable property value.

This facility will help CWI meet the need for providing the heath care industry with graduates educated in nursing, medical and emergency responder professions, natural and life sciences and additional health care careers. We encourage you to vote yes on this levy issue.

Related stories from Idaho Statesman