In May 2017, Bonneville County voters approved a new taxing district to finance turning Eastern Idaho Technical College (EITC) into a community college. The proponents of the new College of Eastern Idaho (CEI) relied heavily on a Community College Study Panel Report (CCSPR) to advance their arguments in favor of creating CEI, whose President Rick Aman has frequently touted CEI’s increasing enrollment numbers. As recently as December 2020, Aman said the number of “credit students” is up 11 percent from the fall of 2019 in the midst of a pandemic.
Last week, CEI’s Director of Strategic Planning, Ann Marie Peters, proposed CEI buy 11.7 acres adjacent to CEI and owned by the City of Idaho Falls. Peters said CEI would like to build a new regional skilled labor center on the property. (This is separate from the $36 million CEI Future Tech building scheduled to start in January 2022). Peters said the college wanted to explore acquiring the property to allow for later expansion. According to Aman and Peters, enrollment is all roses at CEI. But how well is CEI enrollment doing compared to the CCSPR projections used to sell voters on CEI?
The CCSPR projected CEI would have 1,217 students by the first semester of 2017. CEI actually had 809 students and missed the projection by 408 students or by 33%.
The CCSPR projected CEI would have 1,867 students by the fall of 2018. CEI actually had 1,384 students and missed the projection by 483 students or by 35%.
The CCSPR projected CEI would have 2,527 students by the fall of 2019. CEI actually had 1,619 students and missed the projection by 908 students or by 36%.
The CCSPR projected CEI would have 3,026 students by the fall of 2020. CEI actually had 1,809 students and missed the projection by 1,217 students or by 40%. CEI supporters cannot blame COVID for these missed projections in 2020 because the projected numbers were consistently headed straight down out of the gate.
The enrollment numbers are actually much worse than they appear considering in 2020 CEI had 291 dual-enrolled high school students. Dual enrollment allows high school students to take college classes while earning their diplomas. Students are enrolled in both their high schools and in CEI, but they take college courses in high school from their high school teachers. These 291-dual enrolled CEI students could have taken courses in high school through any community college in Idaho without CEI.
If we subtract these dual-enrolled students, CEI actually had 1,518 students by the fall of 2020. Without dual-enrolled students, the CCSPR missed its 2020 projection by 50%. If we subtract from the 1,518 students the 676 students EITC already had in 2016, CEI has grown by only 842 students. This number does not even include the 62 students who transferred from a public college or university, and I haven’t mentioned that 69% of CEI students are part-time like my 56-year-old friend, John, who takes a welding class a couple of times a week.
Our community shouldn’t judge the success of CEI by how much “future expansion” property it can buy or by how many $36 million structures it can build on campus. We should judge its success by promises made and promises kept. You be the judge.