And after a rough 2020-21, state education leaders are casting a cautious eye toward the next school year.
There is some cause for optimism, Freeman said. The University of Idaho and Idaho State University saw a surge in applicants in early 2020, before the pandemic hit, and Freeman is hoping they will see a repeat this spring.
But some metrics are troubling.
New applications for the state’s Opportunity Scholarship are down by about 10 percent, Collins said. Idaho’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid completion numbers are down by 8 percent, according to Las Vegas-based Data Insight Partners — which means thousands of high school seniors aren’t filling out the paperwork they need to receive federal loans, grants and work-study positions, and the state Opportunity Scholarship.
At the U of I, in-state applications are down “pretty substantially,” President C. Scott Green said Monday. That might translate to a stronger applicant pool, he said — in-state students who are serious about enrolling, as opposed to applicants who are on the fence. But Green isn’t sure what’s driving the dropoff in applications: coronavirus fears or questions about whether college is worth the time and money.
“We’re just trying to battle all these forces, whether it’s the pandemic, or the false narratives that are out there,” he said.