BOISE -- Idaho ranks near the bottom, among U.S. states, for sending people to college and those students getting their degrees. Experts say that drags down the entire state's economy, but that could be changing.
Every seat was filled at Taco Bell Arena on Saturday as Boise State University graduated the highest number of students ever. More than 2,400 degrees were handed out, which is a good sign, according to president of the State Board of Education, Ken Edmunds.
"We're seeing record graduation at all of our institutions," said Edmunds. "Boise State is setting the pace."
It's a pace that needs to continue if Idaho is going to climb from the higher-education cellar. The State Board says Idaho ranks in the bottom 10 for students going on to college and graduating. But this BSU Commencement seems to be a trend in the right direction.
"It's still just making a dent in what we need to accomplish," said Edmunds. "What we have to do in terms of growth in degrees, it's a daunting task. But this is a start."
Graduates themselves had a variety of reasons for getting their degrees. Everyone we talked to mentioned getting an upper hand in the job market, even those that already had jobs, like Michael Price.
"It might help me get in the door at other companies, or remain competitive in the company I work for right now," said Price.
Remaining competitive is a goal of Sara Kahler too, as she'll go back to school soon.
"I'll work for a year. I work for the school district right now," said Kahler. "But, I'm more focusing on grad school. I take the GRE next month."
Experts say keeping more Idahoans employed, and in high-paying jobs, means companies don't have to go outside the state to hire. That keeps dollars in Idaho, helps the economy and every Idahoan.
"It's an exciting day for all of Idaho," said Edmunds.
As Edmunds said, BSU is setting the pace, but all Idaho universities are seeing an uptick in graduation numbers. Saturday night, the College of Western Idaho (just four years old) graduated almost 700 students.
If you'd like to know more about Idaho's struggles in graduating students from college, and what is being done by the 'Go On' campaign, you can click here.