State Highlights

WICHE and Idaho

Partnering for Over Six Decades
Year joined: 


► Tens of thousands of students from Idaho have attended undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in other Western states through WICHE’s Student Exchange Program, saving millions of dollars, thanks to reduced tuition rates. In just one of the programs, the Western Undergraduate Exchange, Idaho students and their families have more than saved $144.3 million since 1988, when Idaho began participating in the program. 

► Idaho has received funding to be part of numerous WICHE policy initiatives, including those focused on financing and financial aid, workforce policy, and other areas.

► Idaho has participated in WICHE initiatives related to distance education, workforce development, and behavioral health.

Return on Investment.

► In 2015-16 Idaho, its institutions, and its students saved or brought in over $13.1 million through WICHE and spent $141,000 for membership in the commission, yielding a 93-fold return on investment.

► In the last 5 years, Idaho savings from WUE alone total $51.7 million, yielding a 78-fold return on the state’s investment in WICHE.

Student Savings
Student Savings WUE: 
Student Savings WRGP: 
Student Savings Total: 
PSEP Revenue: 
Grand Total: 

Programs and Participation.

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). SARA is a voluntary, nationwide initiative of states that will make distance education courses more accessible to students across state lines and make it easier for states to regulate and institutions to participate in interstate distance education. The effort initially was funded by $3.2 million in grants from Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and is now supported by fees paid by institutions. The initiative is administered by the country’s four regional higher education compacts – the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC), the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE), the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) – and overseen by The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). States and institutions that choose to participate agree to operate under common standards and procedures, providing a more uniform and less costly regulatory environment for institutions, more focused oversight responsibilities for states and better resolution of student complaints. Idaho was among the first WICHE states to become a member of W-SARA in this reciprocal relationship.

Idaho is active in two of the three WICHE Student Exchange Programs: the Western Undergraduate Exchange, and the Western Regional Graduate Program. In 2015-16 Idaho’s students and families saved over $13 million. Idaho saved money, too, through not having to establish and maintain costly programs in a number of areas, including some in healthcare.

Western Undergraduate Exchange. Idaho students have enrolled in undergraduate programs beyond Idaho’s borders through the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) since 1999. In 2015-16, 1,393 students from Idaho were enrolled in out-of-state programs at reduced rates (150 percent of resident tuition), saving more than $12 million in tuition and fees – the average student savings amounted to $8,664. In the last 10 years, students have saved $91.5 million.

Idaho benefits from WUE in another way: by receiving students from out of state. Idaho’s institutions can choose how many out-of-state slots to offer and in which areas, allowing them to make the best use of their resources by accepting students in underenrolled programs. There’s a workforce benefit for the state, too, as students often stay in Idaho after graduating. In 2015-16 Idaho received 1,482 students through WUE.

Professional Student Exchange Program. Idaho has sent 850 students to professional programs through the Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP) in past years. In addition, in 2015-16 the state received one student and $17,000 in support fees from other Western States.

Western Regional Graduate Program. Idaho’s postgraduates also participate in graduate programs through the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP), which offers access  to 380 high-quality, distinctive programs (“distinctive” meaning they’re offered at only four or fewer institutions in the WICHE region) at 60 institutions in all WICHE states. WRGP programs run the gamut, but emerging social, environmental, and resource-management fields are particular strengths, as are innovative interdisciplinary programs. In 2015-16 Idaho sent 69 students to out-of-state institutions, while receiving 101.

The Interstate Passport is an outcomes-based framework for block transfer of lower division general education. Developed by faculty, registrars, institutional researchers, and academic advisors at two- and four-year institutions in seven states (California, Hawaii, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming), the framework addresses barriers to degree completion posed by uneven transfer policies and practices across states. Institutions in four other WICHE states (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico) and additional states outside the region are involved in its Phase III expansion and scaling efforts to build a nationwide infrastructure supporting friction-free transfer for Passport students. By earning a Passport, students who transfer to another Passport institution will have their learning recognized regardless of differences in course titles and credits, and will not be required to repeat courses to meet general education requirements.  

WICHE’s Added Value

Idaho gains added value from WICHE’s programs in policy, workforce development, technology, mental health, and other areas.

Policy & Workforce Development.

Idaho has participated in projects supporting better-informed decision making at the state level. WICHE initiatives have been sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, Lumina Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and others. In addition, WICHE policy experts often visit the state to present or consult on a number of vital issues. President David Longanecker and Brian Prescott, director of policy research, testified before the Idaho House and Senate Education committees in early 2013 on higher education policy related to accountability, college preparation, and financial aid. WICHE has continued to stay connected with Idaho on pressing issues by sponsoring staff members from the Office of the State Board of Education to attend grant-supported meetings like the recent State Financial Aid Design Studio and College and Career Readiness, Common Academic Standards, and Assessments: Finding Solutions to Cross-State Challenges meetings.

Idaho is one of four states participating in the Gates-funded Facilitating Development of a Multistate Longitudinal Data Exchange (MLDE) pilot project, which attempts to enable a more comprehensive regional view of the creation of human capital and its flow among multiple states by exchanging data across K-12 education, postsecondary education, and the workforce. WICHE held one of its working group sessions in Boise, which allowed a larger number of Idaho officials to attend and participate. The success of that pilot led Gates to fund a second phase in which the MLDE project will expand to other states. 
The implementation of the Common Core Standards (CCSS) or other similar academic standards is well underway in most states, and the corresponding assessment systems went live in this academic year. As implementation continues, there are a variety of challenges that K-12 and higher education leaders will face in the coming years related to student movement across state lines. To begin the conversation about these challenges, WICHE, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, convened higher education and K-12 leaders from the Western region and additional bordering states in October 2014. Idaho was one of 17 states along with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to participate. 
Idaho participates in WICHE’s College Access Challenge Grant (CACG) Consortium, in which WICHE assists the Office of the State Board of Education with CACG grant implementation and compliance related to a number of activities and initiatives, including the development of a Near Peer Mentoring Program (NPMP) serving students in rural Idaho and the creation of a statewide access and success network knows as Educate Idaho. WICHE staff has provided intensive technical assistance throughout the course of the grant and has facilitated numerous meetings over the course of 2014-15 that led to the formation of Educate Idaho. A steering committee and workgroups have been established and their work will culminate with the convening of a conference of key stakeholders from across Idaho in September 2015. WICHE is also assisting in the expansion of the Idaho Near Peer Mentor Program (NPMP) over the course of 2015-16, the final carryover year of the grant.
The Adult College Completion (ACC) Network, funded by Lumina Foundation, is a 750-member learning network that unites organizations and agencies working to increase college completion by adults with prior college credits but no degree. Activities include an annual workshop, a webinar series, publications, a listserv, and other resources. The ACC Network and WICHE have become national leaders in the area of adult learners and continue to be an important resource to those who strive to better serve non-traditional students.
The State Higher Education Policy Database (SHEPD) is WICHE’s online searchable database. It provides state and national policymakers, education leaders, practitioners, and education consumers with an inventory of state-level policies and resources in key issue areas related to access and success in higher education. It contains a blog and an electronic SHEPD alert distribution list to keep subscribers current on important updates. A related resource is the Policy Publications Clearinghouse, a depository of publications, reports, and briefs related to higher education.

Additionally, Boise State University, Idaho State University, and the University of Idaho are members of the Western Academic Leadership Forum (the Forum), whose members address regional higher education issues and engage in cooperative resource sharing. The Western Alliance for Community College Academic Leaders (the Alliance) brings academic leaders of community colleges and technical schools and systems together with state governing and coordinating boards associated with two-year institutions to exchange ideas and information, share resources and expertise, and collaborate on regional initiatives. The College of Southern Idaho and North Idaho College are members.


Several Idaho colleges and universities are active participants in the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), the leader in the practice, policy, and advocacy of technology-enhanced learning in higher education. WCET is widely recognized as one of the most informative, reliable, and forward-thinking organizations regarding the role of technology and innovation in higher education. Our growing membership includes more than 350 institutions, state and system-wide higher education agencies, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and corporations in nearly all U.S. states and many Canadian provinces. WCET member institutions actively serve more than 4 million college students taking all or part of their academic programs via technology. WCET members have access to trusted information on emerging trends, policies, and exemplars of successful learning technology innovation in practice. Key WCET activities include an annual meeting, leadership summits, national webcasts, and listserv-based discussions among members. Major topics of interest to the WCET membership include student success, managing e-learning, emerging technologies and evolving policy issues. 

Mental Health.

The state of Idaho behavioral health system has been systematically moving transformation forward across the state. WICHE played a role early in the evolution of the effort, through completing a comprehensive and participatory process of evaluating the existing system and collaboratively identifying recommendations for improvement. Idaho has utilized the WICHE-developed Suicide Prevention Toolkit for Rural Primary Care Settings to strengthen primary care-behavioral health integration. For FY15, and ongoing in FY16, WICHE is conducting an evaluation of gaps in behavioral health services for adult probationers and parolees as part of the Idaho Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a partnership between Corrections and Behavioral Health.

Other Initiatives. 

Another initiative, the Master Property Program (MPP), helps institutions reduce their insurance premiums and improve their coverage. Created by the Midwestern Higher Education Compact in 1994 and expanded to the WICHE region in 2004, the MPP includes more than 160 campuses with total insured values of over $103 billion. The College of Idaho is a member institution. WICHE is also partnering with MHEC to offer MHECare, a new health program providing vetted, competitively priced medical benefits for students. Underwritten by UnitedHealthcare StudentResources, MHECare offers a variety of plans. In a third collaboration with MHEC, WICHE extends the benefits of MHECtech to colleges and universities in the West enabling them to purchase from competitively bid purchasing agreements to reduce costs on a range of hardware and software products and services.

Former Commissioners.

Michael Rush, executive director, Idaho State Board of Education; Duane Nellis, president, University of Idaho, Moscow; Mack Shirley, former state representative, Rexburg; Robert W. Kustra, president, Boise State University; Arthur Vailas, president, Idaho State University; Dwight Johnson, former executive director, State Board of Education; Michael Gallagher, business professor, Colorado Mesa University, and former interim president of Idaho State University; Gary W. Stivers, former executive director, State Board of Education; Greg Fitch, former executive director, State Board of Education; Bessie Katsilometes, dean of academic programs at Idaho State University; Jack Riggs, physician, Coeur d'Alene; and Lee Vickers, former president of Lewis-Clark State College.