In May 2017, Bonneville County voters approved a new taxing district after 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 argument to create CEI. In October 2022, CEI announced growth of 8% in student enrollment from the fall of 2021 to the fall of 2022.
The Post Register reported that “according to official college records, the school has enrolled more students every year since becoming a community college five years ago. The college has had a 187.27% increase over the last five years going from a registration number of 809 students in the fall of 2017 to 2,324 students in 2022.” CEI President Rick Aman has said, “I am very excited with this growth CEI has experience in the five years we have been a community college.”
This all sounds so very wonderful. 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 fall of 2017. CEI actually had 809 students missing 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 missing 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 missing 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 missing the projection by 1,217 students or by 40%.
The CCSPR projected CEI would have 3,352 students by the fall of 2021. CEI actually had 2,157 students missing the projection by 1,195 students or by 36%.
The CCSPR projected CEI would have 3,444 students by the fall of 2022. CEI actually had 2,321 students missing the projection by 1,123 students or by 33%.
The enrollment numbers are actually much worse than they appear considering in 2022 CEI had 826 dual-enrolled high school students. Dual enrollment allows high school students to take college classes while earning their diplomas. Students are enrolled in both high school and CEI, but they take the CEI college course in high school from their high school teachers. These 826-dual enrolled CEI students could have taken college courses in high school through any Idaho community college without CEI’s ever coming into existence.
Without these dual-enrolled students, CEI had 1,495 students by the fall of 2022, and without them the CCSPR missed its 2022 projection by 57%.
If we subtract from the 1,495 students the 676 students EITC already had in 2016 before converting to CEI, CEI has grown by only 819 students. So, after five years, CEI has added only 819 students without dual-enrolled students or EITC students already there when CEI started.
Also, 91% of CEI students in 2021 and 74% of CEI students in 2022 were part-time. That means over 82% of CEI students in the last two years are not even full-time.
CEI has consistently failed to achieve student enrollment numbers it used to sell the community on CEI whose “growth” is actually coming from part-time and dual-enrolled students. These dual-enrolled students could already be taking the same courses from any Idaho community college without taxpayers having spent millions on CEI.
I cannot get “excited” about CEI’s “growth” when comparing it to the growth projections used to sell the community on the need for CEI. This is especially true given that 50% of CEI’s growth since 2017 has come from high school students who could be taking CEI classes from any Idaho community college without taxpayers spending millions and without having created a new government taxing district.
The data shows CEI’s student enrollment fails to get a passing grade.