NIC delivers mixed progress report to regional accreditors

Another projected enrollment decrease. Two more high-level resignations. The controversial choice of a new attorney.

North Idaho College officials outlined a series of recent problems in a new report to regional accreditors. But officials say collaboration between trustees, college officials and community leaders is “improving” — with a goal of returning the beleaguered 90-year-old community college to good standing.

“The consensus of the entire North Idaho College community is that accreditation is not a symbolic badge of honor,” college officials said in a Friday “special report” to accreditors. “Rather, it is about continuous improvement; it is a fundamental indicator of an institution’s commitment to maintaining its educational standards, financial responsibility and integrity.”

The 19-page report represents perhaps the college’s most detailed update on the accreditation struggle. In early July, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities decided to continue NIC’s accreditation, for up to a year. But the “neutral decision” still requires the college to make its case to remain accredited.

A loss of accreditation could have profound impacts on NIC and its 4,000 students. Without accreditation, NIC students would be ineligible for financial aid, such as the state’s Opportunity Scholarship, and their NIC credits would not transfer to another college.

The report touted several success stories.

NIC ended its budget year with a surplus, which will award 8% employee raises. Even before these raises kick in, employee turnover stabilized last school year. The NIC Foundation provided the college nearly $1.3 million for scholarships this school year, a funding record.

But several chronic problems resurfaced — and in areas that have concerned accreditors for months, or years:

  • NIC expects yet another enrollment decrease this fall — although dual-credit enrollment is improving at several area high schools. “Even though fall enrollment is projected to trend down, the resilience of faculty and staff to address this trend remains strong.”
  • Two top administrators resigned in August, continuing what accreditors have called a staff “exodus.” Officials sought to downplay the impact. “NIC has not discontinued any program due to the lack of human resources.”
  • Trustees bucked college administration and the faculty assembly, passing over higher-rated job applicants to hire Colton Boyles, a Sandpoint attorney with hardline conservative ties, as the college’s new legal counsel. Accreditors have raised concerns about the working relationship between trustees and college administrators.
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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