NIC remains accredited — but receives a stern warning

 

North Idaho College will remain accredited — but a regional review body has issued a warning to the Coeur d’Alene community college.

In a letter Friday, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities cited several problems at NIC, a reflection of the college’s dysfunctional and divided board of trustees.

Accreditation can affect whether a student can qualify for state scholarships — and whether a student’s credits will transfer to another college.

In a letter to NIC Interim President Michael Sebaaly, commission President Sonny Ramaswamy placed the accreditation question at the foot of the NIC board. He noted that in May, the board pledged unanimously to “authentically” consider the views of NIC’s faculty, staff, administrators and students.

“The Commission concludes that the NIC Board of Trustees’ actions to date do not provide assurance that the board has or will follow through,” Ramaswamy wrote.

The commission also recommends NIC rebuild its leadership team. A divided board of trustees fired President Rick MacLennan in September without explanation, and NIC’s three vice presidents have also left the college. NIC has recently filled two deans’ vacancies and is conducting a nationwide search for a new president.

The warning comes after local human rights groups have filed a pair of complaints against board President Todd Banducci, and after accreditors conducted an onsite visit of the NIC campus in January. The warning could remain in place until next spring, when accreditors are scheduled to conduct their next onsite review.

In the meantime, accreditors want reports on every trustees’ meeting — including links to video recordings, agendas and minutes and a report on public comments. Each term, the college must submit a report on enrollment and year-to-year enrollment trends.

In a news release Monday, Sebaaly and Banducci both emphasized moving forward.

“While there is much work to be done on supporting our board in fulfilling its governance role, the NWCCU’s action speaks to how solid the college is in providing quality educational opportunities for our community,” Sebaaly said.

“The NWCCU has identified specific areas of focus and improvement and I am personally committed to making sure we succeed because NIC plays a critical role in our region, for our students and for our local economy,” Banducci said.

In a statement to the Coeur d’Alene Press, trustee Christie Wood blamed the accreditation mess on Banducci and his board ally, Greg McKenzie.

“We are fortunate to have avoided being immediately placed on probation,” Wood said. “However, if Chair Todd Banducci and Trustee Greg McKenzie do not adhere to NWCCU recommendations, begin to follow policy, law and educational standards, it’s clear there will be immediate and severe sanctions placed on NIC.”

Trustees will meet Wednesday to address one concern in the accreditation warning: a vacancy on the board.

Trustees are scheduled to interview candidates and appoint a replacement for Michael Barnes. A Banducci ally, Barnes resigned in January amidst questions about whether he was a legal resident of Kootenai County.

 

Kevin Richert

About 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 KIVI 6 On Your Side; "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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