Fall in Twin Falls

Nik Roussos walks home from class Nov. 3, 2016, at the College of Southern Idaho campus in Twin Falls.

PAT SUTPHIN, TIMES-NEWS FILE PHOTO

TWIN FALLS — Many College of Southern Idaho students want to eventually pursue a bachelor’s degree, but don’t plan to leave the Magic Valley.

Understanding and serving this group of college students was one of the themes Monday during a State of the College event.

It marked the first day CSI faculty members were back on campus preparing for fall semester, which starts Aug. 21.

“The summer has evaporated, no pun intended, and the years keep clicking by,” executive vice president Todd Schwarz told employees.

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CSI president Jeff Fox

Fox

COURTESY PHOTO

During his once-a-semester State of the College address, CSI President Jeff Fox covered topics such as new programs, state funding and requests for the upcoming state legislative session.

And during an introduction, Schwarz talked with employees about the makeup of CSI’s student body. In total, 82 percent of degree-seeking students are looking to transfer to a four-year university.

But many don’t plan to leave the Magic Valley. And fewer than 2 percent of transfer majors actually earn a bachelor’s degree.

The programs with the highest percentage off students who continue on to earn a bachelor’s degree: education, registered nursing, business and criminal justice.

Those are all programs four-year universities offer in Twin Falls.

“Our students are apparently more place-bound than we think,” Schwarz said.

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Todd Schwarz

Schwarz

COURTESY PHOTO

What does that mean for CSI? he asked employees. What should the college give to those students while they’re here?

Employees need to get to know students, engage them and hang on to them, Schwarz said. “After all, they are paying us.”

Here are six updates about what’s happening at CSI:

Weekend college

CSI plans to design complete degree programs students can complete by attending Friday and Saturday classes.

It will be an opportunity for more people — some of whom may be working — to access a college education, Fox said.

New jobs

The college has added a couple of new job positions recently: an alumni coordinator and multicultural coordinator.

CSI has produced thousands of graduates in its 50-year history, Fox said, but hasn’t had anyone to lead outreach efforts. It recently hired an alumni coordinator, Reylene Abbott.

“We have thousands and thousands of people we’ve affected over the years,” Fox said, who are looking to give back to the college.

CSI has also hired a multicultural coordinator, Alejandra Hernandez.

Legislative budget requests

For the upcoming 2018 legislative session, CSI is planning several line item requests. One of them is for upgrades for the college’s information technology staff.

IT staff deal with frequent “crises of the moment,” Fox said, and work nights and weekends.

They want to develop integrated systems, connecting college systems used for functions such as registration, admissions and financial aid.

“It’s all integrated and connected,” Fox said, likening it to a spider web where if you touch one piece, the whole thing vibrates.

Another major focus for the IT department is cybersecurity, which Fox said is a big deal these days.

CSI also plans to seek funding to collaborate with Idaho State University on its Albion Center for Education Innovation.

CSI requested funding last legislative session for an education innovation center, but didn’t receive money.

Funding changes

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Fox serves on one of four subcommittees of Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s higher education task force. Fox’s group focuses on funding and has been meeting for about three months.

“That’s a short period of time to discuss an enormously complex issue,” Fox said.

The subcommittee is looking into the possibility of outcomes-based funding for public colleges and universities.

It would tie a portion of a school’s funding to student outcomes, such as how many graduate. A proposal could come to legislators as early as the 2018 session, Fox said.

Figuring out how to make outcomes-based funding happen is “fraught with peril,” he said, but there’s a real possibility it may supplement or take over certain college line items in the future.

The Idaho State Board of Education set a good goal of 60 percent of residents ages 25 to 34 holding a degree or certificate by 2020, Fox said, but it’s not attainable.

“It’s mathematically impossible and therefore very popular with our legislators,” Fox said, and employees laughed. But the workforce is demanding more highly-trained workers, he said.

Later in his address, Fox praised local state legislators, saying they’re advocates for CSI. “They’re believers in what we do.”

New community college

The College of Eastern Idaho, the state’s newest community college, will start offering classes this fall.

Bonneville County voters decided in May to create a taxing district for a community college — transforming the existing Eastern Idaho Technical College.

CSI will maintain a presence in eastern Idaho until the end of fall term, Fox told employees. CSI’s board of trustees met with the new college’s board last week to help them get up-and-running.

The new college’s opening could mean CSI could lose about 1,000 students.

Recognizing retirees

Fox recognized employees who’ve recently retired from CSI, including jazz studies director Brent Jensen, North Side Center director Elaine Bryant and physical plant director Allen Scherbinske.

Fox held up a copy of Monday’s edition of the Times-News, which featured a front page story about public information officer Doug Maughan, who’s retiring Sept. 1. Employees gave Maughan a standing ovation.

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