Idaho’s state scholarship programs for college students lag far behind most states in the region, Mike Rush, director of the Office of the State Board of Education, told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee this morning. “Idaho has, I think, the second-lowest amount of need-based scholarship money in WICHE’s western 15 states,” Rush said, in response to a question from Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, about how Idaho’s scholarships stack up. Idaho grants about $30 per FTE, or full-time student, Rush said. The state of Washington’s comparable figure is about $800. “So we’ve got a long ways to go.”
But an analysis by an ad hoc committee appointed by the State Board of Education “said even the way you’re spending the money you have isn’t very effective,” Rush told JFAC. "So they urged us to take a look at the entire system and to revamp that. And once we get that revamped, we’re also building in some data collection procedures so we can measure the effectiveness of how that’s working. Hopefully, when we get that whole package put together, we’ll be in a lot better position to ask for money and know what kind of results we’re expecting.”
The State Board’s committee, chaired by First Lady Lori Otter and former state Board Chairman Curtis Eaton of Twin Falls, was appointed last spring and gave its final recommendations to the board this fall; it was prompted by findings in a 2012 Office of Performance Evaluations report on reducing barriers to higher education in Idaho. Now, the board has introduced SB 1027 to revamp the state’s scholarship programs; the bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee next Wednesday.