Governor Brad Little met with students at Rigby High School to discuss his Idaho Launch program currently passing through congress. This program, if passed by the legislature, would give $8500 to every graduating Idahoan who chooses to pursue higher education (through university or trade school) in Idaho.
The money would be delivered over the course of two years ($4250 per year) and could be used on tuition and other fees. It doesn’t matter if the school is a public or private institution. It can be used anywhere and can be added to other financial aid and scholarships.
Little said his proposals address the rising costs of tuition and other fees for students. His policy came out of a desire to relieve some of that financial burden.
He also shared how businesses and industries throughout the state expressed a desire for more skilled labor.
“Idaho’s severe worker shortage could be greatly reduced if every high school senior were to ‘go on’ and achieve the exact skills and knowledge needed to fill one of these high-demand open positions,” Little said in a press release Wednesday prior to the event. “Everywhere I go, employers tell me they struggle with one thing – hiring skilled workers to fill open jobs, and most often those jobs require advanced training after high school. Launch is about good old-fashioned pragmatic policy – we have a problem, and we’re looking to solve it.”
Many of the students in attendance were taking college-level courses. Little shared how the skills they learned in high school would help them in future careers.
“Whether it be in astronomy, or business management, or one of the career technical fields, you’ll be able to make that connection between what you’re doing in this classroom today and that eventual career,” Little said. “You’ll be able to scale up and in demand and receive higher compensation.”
Careers in demand
The governor highlighted four industries: healthcare, education, nuclear energy and cybersecurity.
Little said he had a particular passion for education and shared some of his policies to draw teachers to Idaho such as raising starting teacher pay to $46,000 by the end of the year.
“The Constitution says that the state has to provide for K-12 education, and you can’t do it if you’re not recruiting and retaining the best teachers,” Little said.
He also plans to increase broadband internet access throughout the state so students can keep continuing education.
What happens if the bill gets passed?
Little’s launch program (House Bill 24) barely passed the House of Representatives with a total of 36 out of 70 votes.
After meeting with several senators, Little said he is confident that the bill will make it through the Senate.
“When we get this bill passed by the Senate, we’ll be off to the races,” Little said. “The Workforce Development Council is going to have a lot of work to do.”
Little said BYU-Idaho has already reached out to his office and said they’re ready to go and begin implementing the program if it passes.