Idaho Scholarship Program Beneficial for Students and State

A new workforce development scholarship program in Idaho is generating more interest than originally predicted, and state officials say the response indicates the demand for education and training needed to fill positions in the region and a chance to get and retain young people employed in the state.

The LAUNCH program provides Idaho high school graduates or those who completed equivalent education programs with a grant that covers up to 80% of tuition and expenses for further education, up to a maximum of $8,000. qualified candidates must either be enrolled or have applied to a degree program at one of 76 qualified Idaho institutions offering state-approved degree or certificate and training programs in high-demand careers.

When state lawmakers approved the program last year, the Idaho Workforce Development Council (WDC), which oversees it, did not foresee the high level of interest it would receive after applications opened in October.

As of December 28, around 12,600 persons have started or submitted applications for the program, exceeding WDC’s initial projection of 7,500 applicants. The April 15 application date is still almost two months away.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little is “immensely proud of the students and families utilizing the LAUNCH program” and sees it as “a unique opportunity to connect young Idahoans with the education and training they need for successful careers,” according to Madison Hardy, Little’s press secretary.

Hardy also stated that due to the high volume of applications, the WDC will have to prioritize which students receive scholarships. This year, the state budgeted $75 million for the initiative, funding around 9,000 to 10,000 scholarships.

“Students seeking education and training to enter health care, trades, teaching and STEM-related careers will be among the top recipients of LAUNCH grants,” Hardy said.

State Policy Priority

Workforce development is a top policy goal for state legislators and higher education executives around the country. The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association reported that workforce development is the top policy priority for public university leaders for the second consecutive year. Several states, including Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, and Minnesota, have offered similar scholarship schemes since 2017.

Tom Harnisch, SHEEO’s vice president for government affairs, stated that governors throughout the country are more focused on workforce development as they establish high degree attainment objectives in their states.

In 2010, former Idaho governor Butch Otter established a goal to increase the percentage of state residents aged 25-34 with a degree or certificate from 37% to 60% by 2020. Despite being more than three years past the original target date, the state has yet to meet the goal. The Lumina Foundation, an education philanthropy group that promotes for college access and collects degree-attainment data, reports that the state’s current degree or certificate attainment rate is 51.8%.

“In some states, the trend lines are not encouraging,” Harnisch added. “They really need a shock to the system,” especially in a tight employment market when middle-skilled people are needed to fill roles that do not always require a degree.

“Some high school graduates may not feel that there’s a need to go on to pursue a postsecondary credential,” he added. “But with bold proposals, like the Idaho LAUNCH program, you’ll provide significant incentives for students to go on and pursue higher education.”

Harnisch found that legislators in red states, such as Maine, Michigan, and Massachusetts, are most interested in job development scholarships as a tailored alternative to larger college guarantee programs.

“This is a bipartisan winner,” he added. “If you have a conservative governor and Legislature, they’re going to want to make sure that the dollars they invest go directly towards available jobs to the state as opposed to a broader approach that might require more public investment.”


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