The Idaho Legislature spent much of the winter deliberating how to improve K-12 education. And they implemented reforms that we've long waited for. Next, the Legislature should turn its attention to modernizing and improving our publicly funded higher education programs.
State taxpayers are paying more than one-half of the bill for higher education costs for Idaho’s college students at public higher institutions. For far too long, these colleges and universities have received a passing grade on accountability and the core curriculum requirements. The reality is that public higher education system in Idaho moving in the wrong direction when it comes to providing college students with a well-rounded education that prepares them for the workforce.
College students expect that when they enroll in an Idaho college program, they are learning core subjects including composition, literature, foreign language, government or history, economics, math, and science are critical to education. Learning these subjects makes better students, informed citizens, and makes them valuable, highly-prized job applicants.
Earlier this year, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) and the Idaho Freedom Foundation partnered to publish “Here We Have Idaho: A State Report Card on Public Higher Education”. In the report, Idaho received an overall grade of “F” in general education requirements by our college and university institutions. The study found that of the seven core subjects, only Lewis-Clark State College received a passing grade by requiring 4 of the 7 subjects be taken by each student. Boise State failed to require a single core subject to graduate.
In the case of the subjects of Government / History and Economics, no state public institution required their students to take at least one course. As an example, these two core requirements provide fundamental principles of supply and demand, how the government works, and provides an understanding of how a capitalistic society operates.
The need for better-prepared students to enter the workforce or into college is paramount and is one of the primary goals of Superintendent Tom Luna’s plan at the K-12 level. The same goal is needed for colleges and universities. Otherwise, why have state-sponsored colleges and universities in the first place? Surely, it's about more than about producing winning athletic programs.
The time has come for the State Board of Education and individual public colleges / universities to continue the education reform momentum of 2011. The SBOE and public colleges and universities must exam the current standards, and reform where needed, to guarantee that the students and taxpayers are receiving the utmost benefit of the higher education system.
To view the Idaho Report Card on Higher Education, click here.