BOISE -- During his State of the State address, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter highlighted the importance of higher education in Idaho. He announced the creation of a task force much like the one created for K-12 education.
It is made up of a wide variety of stakeholders who will put their minds together to study Idaho colleges and universities, and eventually, implement some changes.
Members of that task force say investing in higher education is essential to Idaho's success.
"In the knowledge economy you invest in people," co-chair of the Governor's task force on higher education and CEO of White Cloud Analytics, Bob Lokken, said.
Technology is dominating our modern world as our economy continues to evolve.
"I think we just need to be focused on the reality of life in 2017 and beyond," Co-chair of the Governor's task force on higher education and Idaho State Board of Education member, Dr. Linda Clark, told KTVB. "It's a different work environment."
A work environment that requires an educated workforce, one where people are prepared for the job market. In a nut shell, that is why Governor Otter asked the State Board of Education to tackle such a huge task.
"A lot of really good things have come from the K through 12 task force and this is just a natural extension of that as we look at what does the educational system need to look like in Idaho," Dr. Clark added.
The task force was put together to figure out what might be lacking, determine where Idaho's higher education system is at and where it needs to be in the future. Members of the task force agree: This is a long time coming.
The diverse task force will learn from one another, national organizations and other state models, and work to change aspects of post-secondary education at a systemic level when it comes to things like scheduling, remediation, and credits.
One target they have is hitting the state's 60-percent goal, which means 60 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds graduating with at least a one year certificate or degree by 2020.
"There's other areas where there might be a gap. Maybe there's a gap in affordability. A gap in access for people who traditionally wouldn't have gone on to higher education, and how do we get those people in because we have a shortage right now," Lokken said.
Only 40 percent of Idahoans ages 25 to 34 have finished post-secondary education, whether that be professional career technical certificates, associate degrees, or bachelor's degrees.
Boise State University Student Lobbyist Josh Scholer was asked to represent four-year students on the task force.
"We're not only the future of this state but we also live this life and we are the students, the people that higher education affects most directly," Scholer told KTVB.
A huge advocate for overhauling the way higher education is currently funded, Scholer doesn't believe the funding model in Idaho is working- a model that is based on inputs (how many students are enrolled in each school).
Dr. Clark says funding will be one of the items on the task force's agenda. But it is just a piece of the puzzle.
"It's about investing in Idaho's future as a whole," Scholer added.
"There's no reason our kids can't compete and have some of the best jobs in the nation right here in Idaho," Lokken said.
The governor expects to get recommendations from the task force on higher education by September. That timeline would allow for any legislation to be created to go before next year's legislature.
A full list of task force members hasn't yet been released, but it will be made up of about 30 members - from the State Board of Education to lawmakers to university and college presidents.