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Southwest Idaho Voters to Decide Proposed Community College

BOISE, Idaho
Voters in Idaho’s two most populated counties will decide Tuesday whether to build a new community college in the Treasure Valley.

The state already has two taxpayer supported community colleges, one in Twin Falls and the other in Coeur d’Alene, with combined annual budgets of about $64 million.

But supporters of the proposal say the time has come for Ada and Canyon counties to have a two-year college of their own to serve the needs of students, employers and the regional economy. The measure requires a 66 percent yes vote to pass.

The proposal has drawn financial commitments from some of the region’s biggest companies, including Micron Technologies Inc. and Washington Group International. It calls for building the College of Western Idaho in Nampa and starting classes in the fall of 2008.

“There’s nothing here” for locals,” Nampa resident Heather Atherton told the Idaho News Tribune. “It’s either go to Boise or go to Ontario (Ore.)” for higher education.

Nearby Caldwell is home to a small satellite campus of Ontario-based Treasure Valley Community College.

Opponents criticize the tax increase that would be needed to raise an estimated $4 million each year to operate the college. Detractors also say the proposal fails to show details, like exact construction costs and class offerings, and that the region has plenty of for-profit trade schools, plus Boise State University.

“They haven’t really said how (the college) is going to impact the taxpayers,” said Caldwell resident Betty Floyd.

Backers say they want a comprehensive community college that will provide more academic, vocational and work force training courses, particularly in fields of nursing, mechanics, law enforcement and technology.

Last month, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation ran a series of television ads touting the college. Micron and WGI have declined to disclose their contributions to the campaign.

The state has agreed to kick in $5 million toward startup costs.

If approved, the college would be overseen by a board of five trustees, initially appointed by the state Board of Education. Subsequent trustees would be elected by voters starting in 2008.

Associated Press

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