A recent study from the Lumina Foundation titled A Stronger Nation through Higher Education shows that educational attainment in Idaho is on the rise. Specifically, the report revealed that the number of Idaho adults ages 25-64 with at least a two-year degree surged to 36.9 percent in 2013, up from only 34.8 percent in 2008. While still lower than the national percentage of adults with a two-year degree or better (40 percent), this progress is worth noting.
A deeper look at the numbers shows where Idaho may have room for improvement, however. According to the study, 7.96 percent of adults held a graduate or professional degree in 2013, while 18.97 percent had a bachelor's and 10 percent held an associate degree. Meanwhile, a full 26.57 percent possessed only a high school diploma, and another 26.77 percent had some college experience, but no degree.
If you look at only adults with a high school diploma and those with some college but no degree, more than 50 percent of the adult population has the potential to improve their educational standing by pursuing on-campus or online degrees in Idaho. But, will they?
Perhaps it's too early to tell. However, it's important to note that the state of Idaho offers plenty of educational opportunities for those who are interested. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics lists 43 colleges, universities, technical schools, community colleges, and career centers as active in the state. While some of these schools focus only on campus-based education, others offer distance learning options as well.
Why Should I Earn a Degree in Idaho?
A bustling economy and strong job market awaits those who pursue on-campus or online education in Idaho. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, the state's job market in the state was made up of 628,140 workers in 2014, and boasted a mean annual wage of $39,770.
Some jobs and careers for college graduates in Idaho featured high levels of employment and high pay in 2014, including these:
Number of Workers
|Office and Administrative Support Occupations||102,320||$32,910|
|Sales and Related Occupations||68,630||$34,840|
|Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations||59,460||$20,940|
|Transportation and Material Moving Occupations||41,820||$34,530|
|Education, Training, and Library Occupations||41,300||$42,010|
|Construction and Extraction Occupations||36,140||$41,010|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations||36,020||$73,030|
|Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations||29,480||$42,950|
|Business and Financial Operations Occupations||25,390||$64,390|
|Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations||22,700||$26,830|
|Personal Care and Service Occupations||22,670||$23,250|
|Healthcare Support Occupations||17,680||$28,620|
As you can see, a wide range of careers feature high employment and wages in Idaho. However, these careers represent only a fraction of Idaho's economic power. As the Idaho Department of Commerce notes, key industries that help boost the state's economy include advanced manufacturing, aerospace, computer technology and innovation, food production, recreation technology, shared services, and travel.
Manufacturing alone made up 17.6 percent of the state's GDP in 2012, while employing 11.2 percent of the state's private workforce. According to the Idaho Department of Commerce, 2,344 advanced manufacturing businesses are located in the state, with a total employment of 57,881 workers.
Agriculture in Idaho has also become big business. As the nation's top producer of potatoes and trout, and the #2 producer of peas, hops, and barley, Idaho exports far more food than its residents truly need. Currently, 2,212 agricultural businesses and farms reside in the state, with a total employment of 33,769.
A recent report from the Idaho Department of Labor forecasts exceptional growth for certain industries in the state through 2022. The industries with the highest levels of anticipated growth include construction, health care and social assistance, leisure and hospitality, retail trade, manufacturing, educational services, and mining. Further, the state of Idaho predicts a 16.2 percent rate of growth for overall employment in the state in the decade leading up to 2022, which is much higher than the national average.
When it comes to finding a place in Idaho to settle down, you can find nearly any type of community you're looking for. Although Idaho features large rural populations, the state hosts its share of big cities and metropolitan regions as well. The largest metro areas in Idaho include those surrounding Boise, Idaho Falls, Lewiston, Logan, and Pocatello. The state also features high levels of home ownership due to its glut of affordable real estate. As of 2013, 69.8 percent of Idaho adults owned their own homes and the median housing value was $162,100.
In addition to affordable housing and plenty of economic opportunity, Idaho also features an established framework for higher education. Large public schools in the state include Boise State University, College of Southern Idaho, College of Western Idaho, Idaho State University, North Idaho College, and the University of Idaho.
While many schools focus on traditional higher education, others offer a combination of on-campus and online degrees. Schools with established online and hybrid programs in Idaho include Brigham Young University, Boise State University, the University of Idaho, and Idaho State University, among others.
Low tuition rates also play a part in the overall value of on-campus and online degrees in Idaho. Using data gathered from College Board, we compiled these average tuition rates for colleges and universities in Idaho for the 2014-15 school year:
- Public 2-year in-state: $3,761
- Public 4-year in-state: $6,602
- Private 4-year non-profit: $6,963
While Idaho has a lot to offer in terms of higher education and job opportunity, that's not all it has in store for potential residents. With rural farmlands, mountain landscapes, and beautiful waterways, Idaho has something to offer everyone. Here are some fun facts about the state you probably didn't know:
- Because Idaho produces 72 different types of precious and semi-precious stones, it is commonly referred to as the ""Gem State."" In addition to common gemstones, you can also find rare star garnets here.
- Idaho has its own world famous hot springs called Lava Hot Springs.
- Love heights? Idaho's Bruneau Canyon Overlook looks straight down into a 1,200 foot-deep, 800-foot-wide river canyon. Plus, Idaho's Hells Canyon is the deepest river gorge in America.
- Idaho is a center for outdoor recreation, with plenty of opportunities for sports such as fishing. Anderson Ranch Reservoir, for example, is known for its blue-ribbon fly-fishing.
- According to the state of Idaho, the state features an incredibly low cost of living and low crime rates. Considering factors such as housing costs, utilities, health care, transportation, and groceries, Idaho's cost of living is the second lowest of all 11 western states. Meanwhile, Idaho's crime rate is reportedly the lowest of all western states, with serious crimes coming in at a rate that is 21.3 percent less than national average.
Whats Makes Idaho Ideal for Online Education?
Because the main requirement for students who want to earn a degree online is an internet connection, access to higher education is on the rise. According to Jennifer Crouch of College of Western Idaho, that is especially true in Idaho where certain geographic factors come into play.
""We are a very rural state with only three dedicated community colleges to serve the entire state,"" says Crouch. Because of that, she notes, her school serves a 10-county area with the farthest point being over 100 miles away.
Online education in Idaho is what makes degree attainment possible for students who live in these remote areas, says Crouch.
Putting geography aside, there are still other reasons why distance learning is ideal in the state. Take the fact that many employers are running their businesses online in the first place, for example. By taking part in an online degree program, Idaho students are gaining exposure to web platforms, online meeting spaces, and communication software programs that could very well be utilized in their next workplace.
"The marketplace has shifted to being more of a global economy where experience in working with virtual teams and technologies to complete projects is very appealing," says Crouch.
Still, the the main benefit for students is the flexibility online degrees in Idaho offer. By pursuing online education, students are often able to go back to school without quitting their jobs or neglecting their families. And the more Idaho adults with a college degree, the better, says Crouch.
"Education, whether taken online, through a traditional setting, or a hybrid model, can benefit residents of Idaho,"" she adds. ""Access to quality education is vital to keeping our economy strong through a skilled workforce equipped with the knowledge and skills needed for tomorrow's careers."
Top 10 Degrees in Idaho
Although Idaho's economy is promising for workers in a wide range of industries, certain degree fields and related professions still have more potential than others. Using data from the Idaho Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we compiled this list of top college majors in the state:
As physicians continue to run in short supply, physician assistants will be required to step in and take care of some of their duties. With a physician assistant degree, graduates can find work as a physician assistant in a hospital, clinic, or private office setting. Because of the demand for these workers, the Idaho Department of Labor predicts that employment will surge 33 percent in the state from 2012 to 2022. High pay also adds to the overall value of this degree. As of 2014, physician assistants in Idaho earned a mean annual wage of $95,180.
With demand for health care constantly on the rise, it's no wonder that pharmacy degrees are in demand as well. A degree in pharmacy can make it possible to find work as a pharmacist in a hospital or clinic, retail setting, or in research and development. The Idaho Department of Labor predicts that job openings for these professionals will increase 32.4 percent from 2012 to 2022. High wages also adds to the return on investment for this major. As of 2014, pharmacists in Idaho earned a mean annual wage of $112,980.
A degree in marketing could lead to a number of hot careers in Idaho, including market research analyst or marketing specialist. Because of the overall demand for these workers, job openings are expected to increase steadily over the coming decade -- with a 31.9 surge in employment predicted through 2022. In 2014, market research analysts and marketing specialists in Idaho also earned a healthy mean annual wage of $58,140.
The Idaho Department of Labor predicts healthy job growth for workers who earn degrees in physical therapy. Specifically, they predict that employment for physical therapists will increase 31.5 percent from 2012 to 2022. Pay in this field is also higher than average, with physical therapists and physical therapy assistants in Idaho earning mean annual wages of $77,140 and $51,790 in 2014, respectively.
Industrial Maintenance Technology
With a two-year degree in industrial maintenance technology, many graduates go on to work as industrial machinery mechanics. Due to growing demand in this field, the Idaho Department of Labor predicts that job openings will increase 30.6 percent for these workers through 2022. For a two-year degree, the return on investment is rather high as well. As of 2014, industrial machinery mechanics in Idaho earned a mean annual wage of $47,820.
Along with other health care careers, the demand for nurse practitioners remains high. In fact, the Idaho Department of Labor predicts that employment of these professionals could increase by as much as 30 percent in the state from 2012 to 2022. Although nurse practitioners require advanced degrees that take more time to earn, the payoff can be huge. As the BLS notes, nurse practitioners in Idaho earned a mean annual wage of $94,040 in 2014.
Because electricians are needed for both new construction projects and maintenance of existing infrastructure, demand for these workers is on the rise. Most electricians in Idaho get their start by completing a career training or apprenticeship program that lasts 3-5 years. Because of the demand in this field, the Idaho Department of Labor predicts that employment for electricians in Idaho will increase 29.1 percent from 2012 to 2022. Meanwhile, these workers earned a mean annual wage of $45,620 in 2014.
Our aging population will need hands-on care now and in the future, which means plenty of work for qualified nurses. With a degree in registered nursing, students can find work in a hospital, clinic, physician's office, nursing home, or research setting. The Idaho Department of Labor predicts that job openings for registered nurses in the state will increase 26.4 percent from 2012 to 2022. Meanwhile, registered nurses in Idaho earned a mean annual wage of $60,320 in 2014.
All across the nation, jobs for workers with computer science degrees are on the rise. That's especially true in Idaho, where job openings for software developers of applications are expected to see 22.2 percent growth during the decade leading up to 2022. Because of the overall demand, pay remains high for these workers as well. With a mean annual wage of $74,370 for software developers of applications in Idaho in 2014, a degree in this field could be a wise investment.
Earning a two-year degree in dental hygiene is the fastest way to begin working as a dental hygienist. Because dental care is always in demand, job openings for these workers are expected to be plentiful. Specifically, the Idaho Department of Labor predicts that employment for dental hygienists in Idaho will increase 21.6 percent from 2012 to 2022. High pay also adds to the value of this degree. As of 2014, dental hygienists in Idaho earned a mean annual wage of $70,980.
Top Cities for Idaho College Students
Boise is not only the capital if Idaho, it's also the largest city in the state. According to the most recent U.S. Census figures, the population of Boise was 214,237 in 2013. Boise is the county seat of Ada County, and part of the Boise-Nampa metropolitan area.
The cityscape offers a diverse array of hills, valleys, lush greenery, and urban scenery. In addition to being known for its large ethnic Basque community, Boise is also known as a center for jazz, theater, and indie music. Multiple music and theater festivals are held in the city each year, including the Treefort Music Fest and the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.
The National Center for Education Statistics reports that 11 colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher education call the Boise area home. This is the most prominent:
Boise State University
With a fall 2014 enrollment of 22,259 students, Boise State University is one of the largest schools in the region. To appeal to a wide range of students, Boise State currently offers a multitude of associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree programs. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year were $6,641 for in-state students. However, the school reports that students received a total of $150,220,150 in student aid in 2013-14. Boise State University is known for the following programs:
- Online Bachelor of Science in Imaging Sciences
- Online RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Nampa was Idaho's second-largest city in 2013, with a population of 86,518. As part of the Boise City-Nampa metropolitan area, many consider Nampa a suburb of the state's capital. The city is home to 24 parks, the 140,000 sq. foot Nampa Recreation Center, several large golf courses, and the huge Idaho Center.
Affordable housing costs make Nampa an easy place to call home. According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, the median housing value in Nampa was only $113,600 in 2013. Meanwhile, six institutions of higher education currently reside in the city, most of which are beauty and cosmetology schools. Here are the two most popular colleges in Nampa:
Northwest Nazarene University
Northwest Nazarene University of Nampa boasts an enrollment of more than 10,000 students, 6,000 of which take courses through the school's online and distance learning programs. With a student-to-faculty ratio 17:1, Northwest Nazarene University offers small class sizes and intimacy throughout all 60 of the academic disciplines it offers. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year were $27,340, and the school is known for these programs:
- Online RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing
- Online Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems
College of Western Idaho
The College of Western Idaho served 10,217 credit-seeking college students during the Fall 2014 semester. During the 2013-14 school year, they awarded 1,260 associate degrees and certificates in a wide range of technical subjects. Tuition and fees for in-district students are only $136 per credit, and the school is known for the following programs:
- Associate of Applied Science in Accounting
- Associate of Applied Science in Computer Support Specialist
- Online Associate degree in Criminal Justice
With a population of 83,596 residents in 2013, Meridian is the third-largest city in Idaho. Part of Ada County, Meridian is also one of the fastest-growing parts of the state.
The city is known as a center for parks and recreation, with a wide range of parks, water parks, and conservation areas within its borders. Affordable housing also attracts new residents in droves. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median housing price in Meridian was only $187,200 in 2013, and 75.2 percent of residents owned their own homes. Here's the most prominent institution of higher education in the area:
Broadview University - Meridian
With its Meridian campus only ten miles from downtown Boise, Broadview University offers both a small town feel and an urban atmosphere. This campus location enrolled 116 students in 2014, all seeking dynamic learning experiences that culminate in either associate, bachelor's, or master's degrees. Tuition and fees for the 2014-15 school year averaged out to $13,500 and the school is known for these popular programs:
- Associate of Applied Science in Veterinary Technology
- Bachelor's in Accounting
- Online Associate's degree in Accounting
Scholarships and Financial Aid
Students considering on-campus or online education Idaho should plan on filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA form, right away. The information you provide on this form helps state and federal agencies determine what type of aid you may be eligible for. Different types of federal aid can include Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants.
Plenty of state-based aid is also available. The Idaho State Board of Education lists these potential opportunities on their website:
- Opportunity Scholarship
- GEAR UP Idaho Scholarship
- Governor's Cup Scholarship
- Tschudy Family Scholarship
- Armed Forces and Public Safety Officer Scholarship
Students who want to learn more about aid opportunities should contact their school's financial aid office and inquire.
A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, Lumina Foundation, Idaho, http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/#idaho
College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
Idaho Scholarships, Idaho State Board of Education, http://www.boardofed.idaho.gov/scholarship/scholarship_jump.asp
Interview with Jennifer Crouch, College of Western Idaho, August 11, 2015
Key Industries, Idaho Department of Commerce, http://commerce.idaho.gov/site-selection/key-industries
May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Idaho, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_id.htm
Projection of Idaho Jobs by Industry and Occupation 2012 to 2022, Idaho Department of Labor, http://www.boardofed.idaho.gov/meetings/board/archive/2014/10_15_16_14/Idaho%20Projections%20SBOE.pdf
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Idaho, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/16000.html
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Boise City, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/16/1608830.html
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Nampa, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/16/1656260.html
State & County QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, Meridian, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/16/1652120.html
Tuition and Fees by Sector and State Over Time, College Board, http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-fees-sector-state-time
Visit Idaho, http://www.visitidaho.org/