Idaho’s Go On rate, the percentage of high school graduates to complete a four-year college degree, is low and continuing to drop. Idaho ranks in the bottom 10 out of the 50 states, and the rate has dipped below 50 percent just this past year.
Two questions are raised by this statistic: What is ISU doing to combat this, and what impact will President-elect Donald Trump’s proposed education plan have?
Scott Scholes, ISU’s Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management explained the University’s plan.
“We’re trying to bring in a healthy diverse class of new students each year. We’re trying to bring some students in from the community college level, students that may have served a mission, nontraditional students, so they would fall outside that Go On window, but it’s still the same benefit if you can get them back,” Scholes said.
Scholes also mentioned the “Experience ISU” event that took place on October 28 which had more than 500 high school students visiting the campus.
“There’s no way if you were on campus that Friday that you didn’t notice it…The vast majority of [the visitors] were high-school seniors considering ISU,” Scholes said.
When asked if he thought ISU was deliberately focusing on attracting more local students rather than international students, Scholes said, “We had a several-year trend where we weren’t doing all the things I believe that we needed to be doing in regards to attracting Idaho students and out-of-state domestic students…We’ve done a lot of things to hopefully expand our recruiting footprint.”
Scholes thinks that one thing that contributes to Idaho’s Go On rate is Idaho’s economy compared to other states.
“We can be somewhat at the mercy of the economy…Southeastern Idaho’s Go On rate lags behind the rest of the state. The reason for that mostly is the socioeconomic status of Southeastern Idaho right now, which struggles more than the northern part of the state or the Treasure Valley,” Scholes explained.
For an analysis of Trump’s education plan, which would include shifting federal money from public education towards private, religious and charter schools as well as ending the Common Core, Mark McBeth, an ISU political science professor who specializes in public administration, was consulted.
“Since the 1980s, there has been this big push for market-driven public policy, but education is a public good,” said McBeth. “While market approaches can be helpful in some areas, my sense is that [Trump’s] approach which includes vouchers for charter schools and private schools…does benefit upper-middle income students and white students, but if you look at the studies, school choice harms disadvantaged students, lower socioeconomic students, and minority students.”
On how this relates to ISU and the low Go On rates, McBeth agrees with Scholes that the low rates are largely a result Idaho’s socioeconomic status.
“I would think Trump’s reforms are just going to hurt the Go On rate in Idaho, and ultimately hurt ISU,” McBeth said.
“So while Trump casts himself as a pragmatist…he’s actually being very idealistic and following the CATO Institute.”
The CATO Institute is a libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington D.C. McBeth also thinks that Trump is taking on a traditional conservative viewpoint which favors local control of education.
“While local control makes some sense, we also have national priorities as a country. We’re in a globalized economy and we’re competing on a world stage, so we need some kind of national direction of education policy. We all have a right to an education in my view. If I live in Idaho or Mississippi, I have a right to as good an education as if I lived in California or Maine.”
Morgan Betts, an ISU sophomore, said “While I agree that Common Core is probably not the best system we could have, [Trump] isn’t talking about replacing it with anything, and I don’t think you can just get rid of it. I also disagree with cutting funding for public schools. Richer states like California and New York might be fine, but here in Idaho we’re not going to be fine, we’re going to suffer.”