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'Colleges also need to be ready for students': CSI president looks to 'demystify' higher education as the school grows

Twin Falls-based CSI also has a center in Burley, and is planning a major expansion in Jerome.

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — The College of Southern Idaho is seeing growing enrollment and a growing footprint, as the school based in Twin Falls offers classes all around the Magic Valley. How has CSI become one of the fastest-growing educational institutions in the state? The college's president says it's about serving students by meeting them where they are, to get them job-ready right now.

As the Magic Valley grows, so does the college, which serves, at last check, more than 8,300 students.

"We try to seek to meet them where they are," CSI President Dr. Dean Fisher said.

Dr. Fisher added that the key to the growth of the college has been focusing on, first, just convincing students they can go to college. That means guiding future students step-by-step through the application process with financial aid nights and instant enrollment events.

"I guess what I'm really trying to say is that we're trying to demystify what higher education is, in terms of getting successfully navigated through the labyrinth that most people think of us as," Fisher said. "There's been a lot of emphasis over time about getting students ready for college, but colleges also need to be ready for students."

What that means to CSI leaders is understanding what students need for training and education to get a career right out of school. In that effort, CSI is expanding its Ag Diesel and Automotive Tech Programs on the main campus. They also have a place in Burley focused on more workforce training. And they just announced that a new home for the expanded Jerome Education and Training Center. It will be a 20,000 square foot facility in downtown Jerome. It will center on education and training to support the demand for employees in healthcare and the exploding food processing industry right here in Jerome.

"If you've not visited Jerome lately, and you just drive around, you'll find it sort of the epicenter of about everything food processing, at least in Southern Idaho," Fisher said.

He adds that the center will also serve as a community hub for CSI's role as Idaho's first and only officially designated Hispanic-Serving Institution.

"I really would like to emphasize the second word in that designation. It's the Hispanic-Serving Institution, not a Hispanic-enrolling institution. And so, we take very seriously the concept of serving students. And we serve our Hispanic students that are growing here in the Magic Valley," Fisher said.

Because of that HSI designation, the school has gotten some federal grants. But Fisher points out, funding like that doesn't only help Hispanic students.

“There's an old phrase from the early '80s, about a rising tide lifts all ships. Those federal grants are helping us to improve the institution. We wouldn't qualify for them if we were not an HSI," Fisher said. "But as we improve our systems and our processes and our supports for students, all students participate in that. And all students benefit from that."

CSI is growing in its athletics too. The junior college powerhouse in basketball, baseball, softball, and rodeo announced recently it's adding soccer. They should be announcing their first coach any day now.

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