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Timeline | Looking back on the NIC accreditation struggle

The issues began months before President Nick Swayne was put on administrative leave, according to the school's accrediting commission.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — For more than a year, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) says North Idaho College has taken actions that don't comply with its standards or requirements for accreditation.

Those actions have led the university to risk losing accreditation.

A Kootenai County judge ruled Friday that NIC must reinstate President Nick Swayne while his lawsuit makes its way through the courts.

Swayne's placement on administrative leave in December is one piece of a struggle that goes back to late 2021, which has now left the school at risk of losing accreditation through NWCCU.

In a letter sent to the Board of Trustees in February, the NWCCU details more than a year's worth of actions it says don't comply with its standards or requirements for accreditation, including the firing of then-President Rick MacLennan in September 2021.

The issues gained a new level of interest from the public in November 2022, when NIC's attorney resigned and the board elected to replace him with attorney Art Macomber, a move criticized by Swayne, who warned it violated the board's recruitment and hiring policies.

Days later, on Dec. 8, the board voted to place Swayne on administrative leave, though not for any "disciplinary process," according to a letter sent by Macomber.

Swayne filed a lawsuit on Dec. 16; a day later, the NWCCU sent NIC a warning. 

"The NWCCU Executive Committee met on December 16, 2022 and voted to authorize Commission Staff to send a letter to NIC listing the specific Standards for Accreditation and Eligibility Requirements on which the college is or appears to be out of compliance; the letter also stated that if NIC fails to respond demonstrating compliance, the college could be issued the sanction of Show Cause. The letter dated Dec. 17, 2023 and requiring a response no later than Jan. 4, 2023, was sent to Acting Co-CEOs Duman and Garcia," a Feb. 9 show cause document details.

That Feb.9 letter is considered the last step before NIC loses accreditation.

It cites several actions that put the school at risk, including: 

• Three lawsuits, one settled and two active 

• Frequent changes in leadership with little to no input from relevant stakeholders, without following institutional policies and procedures 

• Uncertainty as to who is the Chief Executive Officer at North Idaho College, with a regular president placed on administrative leave (Swayne) and an interim president (South) appointed concurrent with the regular president

 • Declining enrollments, including termination of partnership with STEM Charter Academy, with concomitant reduction in tuition revenue 

• Continued exodus of faculty, staff, and senior administrators 

• Decision with little to no input to expand athletics program and to change athletics conference with potential added costs

 • Multiple No Confidence Resolutions from the Associated Students of NIC, NIC Faculty Assembly, and NIC Staff Assembly

NIC has until March 31 to send a report outlining why its accreditation should not be withdrawn. The NWCCU is scheduled to visit NIC from April 26-27.

The Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting Monday night following the judge's order to reinstate Swayne; on the agenda, discussion items include presidential leadership and internal governance.

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