The newly designated trustees of the College of Eastern Idaho were sworn in Monday before their first meeting, at which they began laying the groundwork for academic and financial transition from a technical school to a community college. “Thank you so much for being willing to serve,” said Rick Aman, who started the board meeting as the president of Eastern Idaho Technical College and was subsequently picked unanimously as CEI’s interim president. The board of trustees, who were picked from 54 applicants to the Idaho State Board of Education, will serve until their seats come up for election in November 2018. The board is composed of Stephanie Mickelsen, Calvin Ozaki, Park Price, Craig Miller and Carrie Scheid. The board picked Price, board chairman at the Bank of Idaho who headed the committee which studied the community college proposal, as chairman. Mickelsen, chief financial officer of Mickelsen Farms and the chairwoman of the Bonneville County Republican Women, was named vice chairwoman and Scheid, who has extensive experience on nonprofit boards, was named treasurer. All three votes were unanimous. The board unanimously picked Aman to serve as interim president until it can complete a search for a permanent president. Aman previously said he would apply for the permanent position as well. Aman began by updating the board on the current academic status of CEI, which came formally into existence when Mayor Rebecca Casper swore in the board of trustees. Aman said the college already has accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the primary accrediting body for colleges in the northwest, which will allow CEI to quickly offer accredited degrees. By contrast, it took the College of Western Idaho in Boise and Nampa more than six years to be accredited. “We’re in a very unique circumstance in that we were accredited as a technical college,” Aman said. The Idaho State Board of Education already has approved CEI to offer an associate of arts degree, and Aman said the school is quickly moving to get approval to offer an associate of science degree. Aman said the school anticipates it will get approval quickly enough that students who sign up for classes beginning in August will be able to graduate with an associate of science degree. The core requirements of both degrees are quite similar, he said. “Any course that a student would take in the fall is so generic that it could go into either an associate of arts or an associate of science,” Aman said. Aman said in the first year CEI plans to rely almost exclusively on adjunct faculty, waiting until normal funding streams are established before hiring on a more permanent basis. A CEI official said about 50 applications had been received for such positions so far.Price said EITC’s graduation rate has outperformed many of the state’s community colleges, and he wants to put a high emphasis on keeping that graduation rate high. CEI officials said they are working closely with the state’s four-year colleges to make sure education programs are tailored for smooth transitions, and the college plans to use “intrusive advising” to make sure students stay on track. Aman said the board needs to move quickly to set up accounts that will allow CEI to access the $5 million earmarked by the Idaho Legislature to give the community college a jump start, since the college will get neither local property taxes nor the state funding available to all community colleges in its first year of operation. “That’s what we would use to fund the college with its initial operating expenses as we wait for tuition and other sources of revenue to come in,” he said. Aman said the state board will have to release those funds, and it has indicated it is ready to do so quickly. The CEI board must first lay the groundwork that will allow the college to accept those funds. Scheid said the board should consider issuing a statement to prevent any confusion about its commitment to setting a levy rate of $15 per $100,000 of property value. In its first year there will be no levy set at all — the board’s first opportunity to set a rate will come next year — but she said the public should not be left wondering if the board is committed to keeping the commitment. After accounting for the homeowner’s exemption, the average Bonneville County homeowner would pay $13.37 per year in taxes to the community college district. “We’re not walking away from promises that were made,” Scheid said. The board set its regular meeting time as 6 p.m. on the third Monday of each month. It’s next meeting will be Monday
Aman said there are five permanent positions the board should consider filling soon, especially a specialist who will focus on dual-credit education for high school students.