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Bachelor's degrees at CSI

From left, Students Shelby Aguirre, Paige Applewhite and Lexi Bingham, who hope to be educators one day, play ‘blackout bingo’ during an icebreaker in their EDUC 3301 course August 25, 2017, at CSI in Twin Falls.

DREW NASH, TIMES-NEWS FILE PHOTO

College of Southern Idaho is addressing two major problems in south-central Idaho: A severe shortage of qualified teaching applicants and an overall workforce shortage.

The two-year college hopes to offer bachelor’s degrees in teacher education and advanced food manufacturing. The move would make CSI the first community college in the state to offer bachelor’s degrees. The college’s trustees voted unanimously in favor of the proposal Monday.

CSI is stepping up to fill a need in south-central Idaho, and it’s a necessary step toward ensuring the region’s growth is sustainable.

Unemployment rates in south-central Idaho continue to sit well below what’s considered “full employment.” Last month, the region recorded its lowest February unemployment mark – 2.5 percent – in a decade.

That impressive number is a reflection of the region’s robust economy. But it also teeters on the side of another dangerous trend: a workforce shortage. Offering a degree in advanced food manufacturing should increase the number of qualified workers the region can offer to major food manufacturers like Chobani and Glanbia. The jobs are already here; CSI is trying to ensure they’re filled by local workers.

The second potential degree, teacher education, is even more urgent.

We’ve reported extensively on the dire teacher shortage in the Magic Valley. According to a teacher pipeline workgroup report presented in December, 15 percent of first-year teachers statewide don’t return for a second year. Thirty percent of teachers leave the profession altogether by their fourth year.

The teaching landscape is even more alarming for south-central Idaho, a region that’s been hit the hardest by the teacher shortage. Even bigger school districts like Twin Falls and Jerome have resorted to hiring teachers with alternative teaching certificates because of a shortage of qualified applicants.

CSI has made clear it’s not trying to become a four-year school. But two workforce shortages exist in our region, and the local community college is attempting to fill them. That’s precisely how the relationship should work between a community college and the communities it serves.

“Community colleges serve their communities in a different way than four-year colleges do,” CSI President Jeff Fox said Thursday. “Boise State certainly has a relationship with Boise, U of I has a relationship with Moscow, but it’s different. Their mission is really statewide. Community colleges are different.”

Fox is right. CSI is the college of the Magic Valley, and when the Magic Valley has problems, it can provide solutions.

Our children deserve qualified teachers, and our manufacturers need qualified workers. CSI is making the right move in keeping southern Idaho’s college students right here in the valley. This will give local students the option to pursue bachelor’s degrees from right here in their home region. And once they graduate, the jobs are here for them. That’s a win for everyone in the Magic Valley.

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