The executive director of the Idaho State Board of Education told a crowd of teachers and other educators Thursday that Idaho and the rest of the country are losing ground to other countries in the number of people who are getting college degrees.
“Simply put, the United States is losing its status at the world leader in the educational attainment of its citizenry,” Mike Rush said at a meeting at Boise State University. Rush said that Idaho in particular is doing well at graduating kids from high school, but not from college or other post-secondary education programs.
Rush was speaking at a College Access Summit sponsored by the state board and the state department of education intended to help boost college entrance and graduation rates. Idaho had a 43 percent graduation rate in 2008, which is near the bottom nationally. Rush said that Idaho can improve by simplifying the transition from high school to college, including changing confusing college application forms and aligning high school graduation requirements with college entrance requirements.
“We have a solid high school completion rate,” Rush said, “but we have a great deal of work to make it the system we want and need it to be. I firmly believe that our higher education system is the key to digging ourselves out of the current economic crisis.”
Tough economic conditions have hurt state funding for public universities and colleges, which are seeing a $32 million reduction in the new state budget.
Rush compared the current global economic situation, including growth in China, to America’s response to the USSR’s launch of the Sputnik rocket in 1957. He said the U.S. responded to Sputnik by increasing scientific research and college attendance.
“This modern day Sputnik has the potential to permanently alter our way of life, and not necessarily in a good way,” Rush told the crowd. “The battleground is economic rather than military, though it could have certain military implications. And the solution may be similar to solution we used back in the 1950s.”
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