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Idaho governor to push for higher education changes

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter offered a rare glimpse into his agenda for the upcoming legislative session on Thursday by announcing plans to ask lawmakers to create a chief education officer who would help make key changes inside Idaho’s postsecondary system.

“We have a lot of agencies clinging to the status quo and status quo isn’t going to get us there,” Otter said while speaking to the Idaho State Board of Education. “I think this transition is going to take some time and I think it’s probably going to have to change me a little too.”

Otter said creating a higher education CEO would help the state reach its 2010 goal of getting 60 percent of Idaho’s young adults to complete a post-secondary degree or certificate by 2025.

“I don’t have any preconceived notion except success for this position,” he said.

Otter then asked for the board’s support of the idea, explaining the CEO position would have to work directly with the board in order to be effective.

Otter has typically declined to share details of his legislative wish list until his State of the State address for the past three terms he’s been in office. However, he hinted at the CEO proposal in December by promising to drastically change the structure of Idaho higher education.

This year, his 12th and final State of the State speech will take place on Jan. 8 — the official kickoff of the 2018 session.

Thursday’s announcement stems from various recommendations submitted by a task force appointed by the governor to review the state’s postsecondary access and completion. The idea has also been endorsed by a handful of business executives, who sent a letter to Otter urging him to adopt the idea because of the growing need to have a better skilled workforce in Idaho.

Currently, Idaho is searching for three new college and university presidents. Otter said those openings make it an ideal time to begin revamping the system.

Roughly 40 percent of Idaho’s residents between the ages of 25 and 34 have completed post-secondary education. The statistic has been incrementally decreasing since 2012 and officials were recently forced to push back their deadline of meeting the 60 percent goal from 2020 to 2025.

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