The Idaho House has given final approval to a bill Rep. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, believes will help families in Idaho reduce the cost of going to college.
The measure cleared the House 58-12 and it now heads to the Senate for consideration.
The plan would help high students move through their coursework faster by paying most of the cost for online, summer and overload courses. Students who begin taking extra classes in junior high can finish their high school education by the beginning of what is typically thought of as the junior year.
The yearly cost for the program could be as high as $2.5 million, with the state paying $225 per online course and families paying $75 per class. Students who do not pass their extra classes will be required to pay the full course costs in order to proceed in the program.
Thayn says by rushing students through high school, the state could save up to $7 million in college costs.
The real savings, he believes, will come to families in the program. If students take courses more quickly and graduate after their sophomore year in high school, they can then take dual enrollment college course and graduate with an associate’s degree around the time their peers earn their high school diplomas.
Because students can take concurrent enrollment courses while still in high school, Thayn says families will save money by not having to spend as much on tuition, fees, books, food and other college-related expenses.
The program is not for everyone, however. Participation will be limited to 10 percent of the statewide student population and, even then, students must be motivated to take part. “It really depends on the willingness of the student to take extra classes and do extra work,” Thayn said.
Rep. Mack Shirley, R-Rexburg, the vice chair of the House Education Committee, spoke in favor of the measure, urging lawmakers not to be scared away by the newness of Thayn’s idea. “The thinking is outside the box. It’s a little unusual,” Shirley said. “But the concept is good.”
Shirley recognizes that some details of how the program would operate are still sketchy and will have to be worked out, but said the idea is worth the work.
There was some concern by members of the budget committee about how they would find money to fund the $2.5 million figure, but Thayn said he’s spoken with Jason Hancock, a top aide at the Department of Education about the issue and has been assured funding can be found if the bill clears the Senate and is signed by the governor.