Part one of a two-part article.
To compete with other states and globally, Idaho’s economy needs a skilled workforce. Postsecondary education is the key to developing those skills to innovate and thrive. Education also helps raise the quality of life of workers who receive schooling as well as for their families. Recognizing rising skill levels for many jobs and the importance of higher education in making the Idaho economy competitive, the Idaho State Board of Education set an ambitious goal for 60 percent of Idahoans 25 to 34 years old to have a degree or certificate by 2020.
To achieve this goal, Idaho’s public schools must increase student enrollment and retention. But they will be facing some headwinds. Throughout the United States colleges are under economic pressure, and a growing number of private schools are likely to face bankruptcy as pressure mounts as noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Student Drought Hits Smaller Universities,” dated July 25, 2014.
Global competition is intensifying. The United States was the world leader in educational attainment until the 1990s. In recent years, many countries have been producing degree-holders at a higher rate. In 2011, 42 percent of Americans ages 25 to 34 had associate, bachelor’s or advanced degrees, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The U.S. lagged South Korea’s 63 percent, Japan’s 58 percent, Canada’s 56 percent, Ireland’s 48 percent, Britain’s 48 percent, Norway’s 47 percent, Luxembourg’s 46 percent, New Zealand’s 45 percent, Israel’s 44 percent and Austria’s 43 percent. In the United States, the public-private balance of expenditure on postsecondary education is nearly the reverse of the average across other OECD countries. In the U.S., public sources provide 36 percent of spending on higher education while the other nations average 68 percent.