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'You don't quit just because it gets hard' | NIC president says fight to save accreditation isn't over

NIC President Nick Swayne says if he and the trustees fail to get back in good standing with the NWCCU, they could still lose accreditation.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — North Idaho College trustees met Wednesday night for the first time since holding onto its accreditation.

Last month, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) announced NIC will remain under sanction, but will keep its accreditation for now. However, the commission also said the college has a number of things it must fix before it can be back in good standing.

NIC remains under close watch after a series of public squabbles and a "show cause sanction" by the NWCCU for falling "out of compliance" with the commission's standards on governance and institutional integrity.

College President Nick Swayne told KREM 2 it's rare for an institution to be sanctioned over leadership failures. Usually, it's because of financial or educational programs. But he said his office and NIC's five elected trustees have just over one year to prove they can learn to get along.

"We're not out of the woods yet," Swayne said.

Swayne said his relationship with the college trustees has improved significantly since last year.

Swayne has only been in the president's office for two years. After less than six months on the job, NIC trustees abruptly placed him on administrative leave. But instead of walking away, Swayne fought back in court, and in June of this year, a judge ruled in his favor and directed the trustees to permanently reinstate Swayne.

"I came here to be the president," he said. "It's important to the community, it's important to the state. I'm a product of Idaho. And for me, that's very important. So you don't quit just because it gets hard."

He added, "We're gonna have to work with this. So let's figure it out."

And they'll have to; the NWCCU has given the college until April 2025 to get back in good standing and correct 18 key points, such as continued training for the president and the trustees, resolving the issues that led to a no-confidence vote by faculty and staff and resolving current litigation.

If they fail, NIC could still lose its accreditation.

Among the first decisions trustees will have to make moving forward is to choose a new attorney to represent them in several pending lawsuits. Two candidates are up for that job: the Stevens Clay Law Firm out of Spokane and Colton Boyles out of Sandpoint.

The Stevens Clay Law Firm has specialized in school law for 30 years and has represented more than 100 different schools. Boyles has held a law license for six years and has represented politicians and government agencies, but never a higher education.

Swayne said it's decisions like this that the accrediting commission will be watching closely.

"We have to really focus on really doing the right thing," Swayne said. "We're sort of like one incident away from losing accreditation."


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