TWIN FALLS • Jordan Rogers already turned in an application for Dixie State University in Utah to study surgical technology.
But the 17-year-old wants to see which Idaho schools she’s accepted to before making a final decision.
She’ll find out soon. Under a new Idaho Board of Education initiative, high school seniors will receive a letter in November with an announcement about which in-state schools they’re qualified to attend.
“Maybe after I get the letter, it could change my mind,” said Jordan, who attends Twin Falls High School.
In mid-August, the Idaho Board of Education approved a “direct admissions” initiative. Students will be conditionally accepted to two- and four-year colleges and universities based on their grade point average and college entrance exam scores.
“We want students to see that their achievement and hard work had a great outcome for them,” said board member Debbie Critchfield of Oakley. Plus, state officials want to make the application process easier and help students realize they can go to college.
Students will still have to go through the application process for the school they choose and maintain a good GPA.
“The universities still need to have an idea of who’s coming into their school,” Critchfield said.
Students must pay an application fee, but that money will be credited toward their tuition.
Another factor — but not the driving force — behind the initiative is to encourage more students to stay in Idaho, Critchfield said.
“We respect the fact there are choices and a variety of schools,” she said, but some students may not be aware of Idaho options.
More than 70 percent of Twin Falls High seniors applied to an in-state college or university last school year, said counselor Sharee Hamilton.
Jordan did a lot of research about college options and talked about it with her father, who works at the College of Southern Idaho.
But the letter will still be helpful, she said. “I think this is a good eye-opener for students who aren’t as involved.”
Plus, high school students are “so indecisive,” said Casey Hoggarth, 17. The new initiative will help with narrowing down options, he said.
To be conditionally admitted to all Idaho public schools, students must have a 3.0 GPA or higher, or their GPA multiplied by SAT math and reading scores must reach 2835.
Students who don’t meet the benchmark will be conditionally admitted to six schools — including the College of Southern Idaho — that offer certificate or associate’s degree programs.
The Idaho Board of Education’s goal is to have 60 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds with a post-secondary degree or certificate by 2020. Today, only 41 percent do.
The idea for direct admissions came after an Idaho university president struggled to fill out an application for his own school.
“If a college president was having trouble, what did that look like for an 18-year-old and their parents?” Critchfield said.
Back at Twin Falls High, 17-year-old Lindsey Williams is hoping to stay in Idaho for college so her parents don’t have to pay out-of-state tuition.
She has talked with the College of Idaho’s soccer coach about playing on the team, but hasn’t committed to any schools yet.
One piece of college application advice stuck with her: to keep her options open. “That’s really important to me.”
Jordan has a specific vision of attending Dixie State University, but she’s also considering whether she could play basketball at a two-year college.
Casey is deciding if he wants to play baseball at a two-year school. It will depend on how this season goes, he said.
He’s considering colleges in North Dakota, where he has relatives, or Montana State University. But he says he’ll likely stay in Idaho.
Classmate Tanner Thompson, 17, is interested in Idaho State University.
At CSI, admissions director Gail Schull said she’d love to see an influx of applicants.
She hopes students will receive the state’s letter in November and think, “I am college material. Maybe I should apply.”