The latest Georgetown University study estimates that by 2020, 68 percent of Idaho jobs will require a post-secondary degree or certificate, Idaho State Board of Education President Don Soltman told the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee this morning. “We all know that education is directly tied to economic benefit for individuals and their communities,” he said. “There is a significant need in our state for individuals to earn some post-secondary education. This includes workforce training, certificates, and degrees. The largest growth needed will be in baccalaureate degrees.”
Idaho now has one of the nation’s highest high school graduation rates at 84 percent, Soltman said. “However, we are not doing enough to convince those high school graduates to go on and invest their time in … post-secondary education.” That’s why the state board in 2010 set a goal that by 2020, 60 percent of Idaho’s 25- to 34-year-olds will have a post-secondary degree or certificate, he said. Currently, about 35 percent of that population has an associate’s degree or higher, Soltman said; if lower-level certificates are added in, that rises to 39 percent, but the national average is 44 percent. That 60 percent goal is driving all the board’s initiatives, Soltman told lawmakers, from increasing rigor in K-12 education, to encouraging and supporting students in applying to college, improving remediation, and smoothing transfer of credits between institutions.
JFAC members questioned Soltman about the goal. Several noted that the state’s figures don’t include students who leave Idaho to go on to higher education. “So we could be considerably closer to our goal than the chart depicts,” said Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace. Soltman responded, “That could in fact be the case.” He said the development of a longitudinal data system to track Idaho students’ success after they leave high school is key to pinning that down.
Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, asked Soltman, “There is no state at that 60 percent mark. Do you think that’s a reasonable goal to have?” Soltman said the board “put a lot of thought” into the goal it set in 2010, including bringing in a national speaker from the Lumina Foundation who worked with the board on it. The latest Georgetown University studies about what Idaho jobs will require in 2020 backs up the appropriateness of the goal, Soltman said. “I think it’s very reasonable.”