If the May 16 ballot initiative to convert Eastern Idaho Technical College into a community college passes, class options wouldn’t be the only thing to expand.
Local control over the college would grow as well.
A hypothetical College of Eastern Idaho would be run by a locally elected five-member board of trustees.
A local board allows a community college to build a strong regional identity by responding more nimbly and knowledgeably to changing workforce demands, EITC President Rick Aman said.
“The decisions on what we offer (at EITC) and when we offer it really fall on the State Board of Education. Between a limited scope and ultimate direction from Boise, it doesn’t really give our region the attention it could and should have,” Aman said. “That tie gets cut for a community college.”
Aman cited other Gem State community colleges that complement regional industry.
The College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls has food processing programs; the College of Western Idaho in Nampa offers software and technology programs and North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene offers aerospace programs.
All are governed by a local board of trustees.
How would the College of Eastern Idaho’s board work?
If the May 16 initiative passes, Bonneville County officials would draw zones for the five-member board. After the state board approves the zoning, it would appoint inaugural local board members.
Those seats would be up for election during the next general election, which is Nov. 18. Some seats would be for two-year terms, while others would be for four-year terms in order to stagger future board elections.
After the two-year seats are up for election again in 2020, they would become four-year seats.
If other counties opt into the community college district with a simple majority vote, the board would continue to be governed by five members. Zones would be redrawn to accommodate additional counties as necessary.
A local board’s largest benefit is in its regional knowledge, Aman said.
Though community college credit programs would still have to be approved by the state board as they do for technical colleges, a local board could quickly initiate noncredit workforce development programs without state board approval.
In 2012, CSI created workforce development programs for incoming Chobani employees before the company’s factory was built.
CSI President Jeff Fox spoke about the importance of a local board Wednesday during a City Club panel.
“Local control is everything,” Fox said. “Locally elected officials are in tune with communities and opportunities for economic development, and we’re authorized to move forward … Our locally elected trustees approve budgets and strategic plans, so we can be reactive in a positive way to the community.”
Workforce development programs also can serve as a “pilot” to determine whether a program is successful enough to warrant an entire degree, which would require state board approval.
“We could use workforce development to put together a program, and have that up and running in a couple months because it’s noncredit,” Aman said. While it’s up and we’re testing the proof of concept, we could put together the curriculum for credit and put together findings for state board approval.”
Areas of study that make sense for eastern Idaho include natural resources, agriculture, drafting, cybersecurity and programming, Aman said.
“And you want those areas of focus decided locally, not in Boise,” Aman said.
Reporter Kevin Trevellyan can be reached at 542-6762.