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LCSC master's bill clears first hurdle

by Craig Northrup Staff Writer
| February 13, 2020 12:00 AM

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Amador

A bill that would empower Lewis-Clark State College to develop graduate-level courses cleared what its author considered a major hurdle Wednesday, passing through the House Education Committee on its way to its first floor vote.

House Bill 395, guided by Coeur d’Alene Rep. Paul Amador, was approved unanimously by the House Education Committee Wednesday morning. It will face a House floor vote next week and — if approved — would then go to the Senate Education Committee and Senate.

The bill is intended to promote opportunities for master’s degrees in nursing leadership and education at Lewis-Clark. It provides for the removal and update of language that would essentially give the state college license to offer higher education degrees.

“With the continued development of the health care corridor and Kootenai Health’s growth in Coeur d’Alene, we are attracting a wide range of health science professionals to our community,” Amador said after Wednesday’s vote. “This legislation will bring additional graduate-level programs in the health sciences to North Idaho and will help to advance the careers of those professionals.”

More specifically, the amendment to the original act that established Lewis-Clark State removes “four (4) year,” “the degree of Bachelor,” and other language that steers curriculum to the traditional degree. It further adds language such as “professional,” “techncial,” and “of higher education,” terms that would open the college to more contemporary education plans.

HB 395 would by no means represent the only time Lewis-Clark State has expanded its educational focus. Originally established by law in 1893 as Lewiston State Normal School, the college primarily focused on preparing a workforce of teachers. After the beginning of World War II, the school expanded its nursing program while churning out aviators to fight in the war.

The college would change its name four times over, contract into a two-year college and even fell briefly under the jurisdiction of the University of Idaho.

The language of the bill doesn’t specifically target advanced nursing degrees in this newest expansion, but Amador and LCSC President Cynthia Pemberton both recognized that health care education would be the focus of Lewis-Clark State’s graduate-level growth. Local health and education professionals believe HB 395 would help stabilize a deepening nursing shortage and keep nurses in Kootenai County while they pursue a master’s.

“We [at] LC State are delighted the proposal will move forward and are committed to serving North Idaho needs,” Pemberton said after the vote. “We remain hopeful that this positive momentum will continue.”

The House is expected to vote on HB 395 early next week.