COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — North Idaho College will stay in good standing, so long as it heeds the warning from its accrediting organization, as reported by our partners, the Coeur d'Alene Press.
The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) issued a letter of action last week sanctioning NIC with a warning, citing persistent issues related to the board of trustees.
The letter came more than a year after four regional human rights organizations filed complaints against NIC, spurring an investigation.
Interim President Mike Sebaaly said Tuesday is committed to reaching the goals set by NWCCU.
“I see a path forward to full compliance with the NWCCU,” he said at a public hearing to address questions about the sanction. “The recent report reaffirmed the great work that the faculty and staff do at NIC. The faculty and staff are living the institutional mission.”
The college is reportedly out of compliance with an eligibility requirement for the governing board, as well as two standards related to governance and institutional integrity.
A peer review panel convened by NWCCU previously recommended the college’s accreditation be placed in probationary status.
Instead, the commission issued a warning, with requirements for monitoring and recommendations to bring the college into compliance with accreditation standards related to board governance.
The warning serves as a sanction, which may be removed or continued based on the results of a spring 2023 on-site visit by the commission.
Several complaints in the peer panel report specifically cited the leadership of board chair Todd Banducci, who has been called upon to resign by the NIC staff assembly, as well as numerous community members and the nonprofit Save NIC.
Faculty passed a resolution last month that renewed their vote of no confidence in Banducci’s ability to serve the college’s best interest and called on him to step down immediately.
The NWCCU’s letter of action cited the multiple votes of no confidence that “do not appear to have been ‘authentically considered’” by the board as a specific concern.
Accreditation Liaison Officer Steve Kurtz said the sanction has an immediate impact on NIC.
Before the sanction, if NIC wanted to add a new program, the college could expect to receive approval from NWCCU within days.
Now the college must undergo a full review process to achieve the same result.
“We lose the ability to have that fast track,” Kurtz said.
NIC is required to take appropriate action to ensure the commission’s concerns are resolved over the next year.
That includes adding a fifth trustee to meet the minimum requirement of five trustees.
Former trustee Michael Barnes resigned from the board in January amid claims that he was a legal resident of North Dakota, not Idaho.
The board meets at 6 p.m. today to hold interviews with candidates for the vacant trustee position.
If NIC doesn’t make progress to address the issues raised by the commission, the college could be placed on probation or lose its accreditation.
Sebaaly reiterated Tuesday that NIC’s degrees and certifications are still valid. Credits earned at NIC still transfer to other institutions.
However, among the uncertainty at NIC, counselors in the Coeur d’Alene School District and elsewhere are beginning to recommend other colleges to their students.
Sebaaly said last month that enrollment could drop by as much as 10% in the face of sanctions.
A 1% drop in enrollment represents abut $100,000 in tuition revenue.
“We are committed to working forward to a better path,” Sebaaly said. “As an administration, we will keep supporting our board and giving them opportunities to improve the governance of this institution.”
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