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Idaho community college proposes bachelor’s degree focused on ‘applied’ skills


Degree would appeal to adult students, tradesmen

A community college in Idaho is working on a bachelor’s degree that will focus on real world skills, not just theory. But it has faced some opposition from other universities in the state.

The College of Western Idaho’s bachelor of applied science in business administration is an “applied degree” that “involves Career Technical Education,” President Gordon Jones said during an Idaho Board of Education meeting.

The college’s degree would appeal to its “unique” students that differ from residential four-year colleges. President Jones named adult students (over 24-years-old), tradesmen, and enrollees who need an affordable option.

He gave the example of a plumber who might want to run his own company as a potential student for the BAS degree or a tradesmen who wants to advance in his field while working for a “larger employer.”

The Idaho Board of Education approved the program. It is currently pending with the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities and then must be approved by the federal Department of Education.

“We should hear back from NWCCU in the next couple of months and then CWI will work with the Department of Education,” Director of Government and Community Relations Ashley Smith told The College Fix via email in late January.

The degree drew opposition from Boise State University and Idaho State University.

“We proudly collaborate, support and partner with community colleges. We aim to be efficient in our program offerings across the state, and our board has policies that help guide us,” Boise State Provost John Buckwalter told The Fix via a media statement.

“Our institutions use these policies as we look at each potential offering,” the provost said. “The board has approved new program offerings, and we will continue to partner with our community colleges across the state, always seeking to serve the best interests of students and our communities.”

MORE: Trade school programs thrive amidst overall college enrollment drop

Idaho State did not respond to multiple emailed requests for comments sent in the past several weeks that asked for more information about their opposition to the proposal.

Former Ohio University economist Richard Vedder told The Fix it is nothing new for universities to oppose their competitors creating new programs.

He noted economists have said private companies would face antitrust litigation if they tried to stop their competitors from creating similar products.

He said the geography of Idaho could justify expanded degree offerings as CWI’s program would provide better access to people.

“On the other hand, higher education, even in Idaho, is not growing by leaps and bounds these days,” Vedder said.

“I’m kind of sympathetic to the general idea of greater competition, and I think the University of Idaho and Boise State are just trying to protect their turf, maximize enrollment, reduce competition, all the things us economists generally [don’t like],” Vedder said.

He said CWI should be allowed to try to offer a degree, but the cost to taxpayers and budgetary concerns is something to consider.

Editor’s note: The attribution for Buckwalter’s quote has been updated.

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Bridget Crombie is a student at Hope College where she is studying communications and theology. She is also a basketball and track athlete, and is heavily involved in the Hope Catholics group on campus.