NIC ‘dysfunction’ triggers a Moody’s downgrade

Moody’s has downgraded North Idaho College’s bonding outlook, citing political “dysfunction” that has placed the school’s accreditation in jeopardy.

The downgrade — from a “stable” outlook to a “negative” one — does not affect the Coeur d’Alene college’s bond rating. But it comes after a divided board of trustees ousted President Rick MacLennan without explanation, and after the region’s accrediting body has fielded written complaints about Chairman Todd Banducci and his board allies.

“The revision of North Idaho College’s outlook to negative primarily reflects governance credibility and board structure risks,” Moody’s wrote. “These risks are highlighted by board dysfunction.”

Regional accreditors are scheduled to tour the NIC campus in January.

Several factors could prompt Moody’s to upgrade NIC’s outlook, such as a boost in financial reserves or “successful stabilization of governance and management combined with increasing student demand.”

On the other hand, several events could trigger another downgrade: declining enrollment, dwindling reserves or “continued governance and management disruption.”

In an email to college administrators Wednesday, vice president of business and finance Chris Martin called the outlook downgrade “disappointing” but not a surprise. The “great news,” he said, was the fact that NIC’s bond rating was unscathed.

“The fact that the college retained its (bond) rating in the midst of the current challenges is awesome,” Martin wrote.

Moody’s noted that NIC has a “strong” debt-to-asset ratio. As of June 30, NIC carried $8.2 million in debt, for a dormitory, while cash and investments total $69.5 million.

NIC adopts pandemic protocols for Head Start program

In other NIC news, trustees voted unanimously Wednesday to adopt pandemic safeguards for its Head Start program, the Spokane Spokesman-Review reported.

Head Start employees will need to get a COVID-19 vaccine, and everyone associated with the school, over the age of 2, will need to wear a mask.

The protocols are required in order to comply with federal standards and keep the program in operation, the Spokesman-Review reported.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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