Sunday, November 27, 2022

MY TURN: NIC at a crossroad

by JOHN BARLOW/Guest opinion
| October 28, 2022 1:00 AM

For the past two years, NIC has been the heart of a community controversy. Newly elected trustees have been trying to take our college in a different direction from the proud history she has provided North Idaho. This November’s election is truly at a crossroad that we all will have to live with for years to come.

If we choose Pete Broschet, Brad Corkill and Tarie Zimmerman as our new trustees, NIC can continue on her mission of providing opportunities and futures for our youth and citizens. If we take the wrong crossroad, we could be at the beginning of the end of NIC as we know it.

While North Idaho voters are nearly 70% conservative, there has been an effort by the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee to change NIC from an effective, taxpayer-supported community college to a private ultra-right institution, where they can hand pick the curriculum, teachers, philosophies, etc. to suit their agenda. This effort is the crossroad to NIC’s demise.

Here’s what I know about NIC that we should all focus on:

  • NIC has been providing college educations to our students since 1933.
  • With 66% of the students from Kootenai County, it is our major source for a continued education beyond high school.
  • 38% of the enrolled students are over the age of 25.
  • Many of the older students are veterans, displaced homemakers or individuals choosing a late life career change that want to return to pursue a college degree.
  • A full-year tuition and board cost, for in-district students at NIC, is the lowest cost option of any other junior college or university in the area, including Spokane. It is also lower than the national average and any other in-state option.
  • The Workforce Training Center served almost 5,000 students in 2021. Many of our local businesses and industry heavily rely on “ready to go to work employees” and cannot afford to lose these skilled individuals.
  • NIC provides the opportunity for high school students to receive college credits while they are still in high school. Credit that would otherwise have to be earned after high school graduation.
  • NIC is one of the major sources for nurses and related health care professions in our area, serving as a major source for Kootenai Health and other health care providers during this time of nursing skill shortages.
  • Other health degrees include:
  • Nursing PN

  • Nursing RN

  • Physical Therapist Assistant and Pre Physical therapist

  • Radiography Technology

  • Dental Hygiene

  • Other pre-med science classes

  • Other technical programs include:

  • Autobody and paint

  • Automotive Technology

  • HVAC skills

  • Machinery and CNC

  • Medical Assistant

  • Wastewater treatment technology

  • Welding

  • NIC is also one the primary sources for our local firefighting and law enforcement training.

Can you imagine our community without any of these benefits?

We have learned in the last two years, that if we elect the wrong trustees, bad things happen quickly. Who and how we elect our leaders has serious consequences. When the wrong trustees took control in 2020, we lost our President, lost our accreditation, lost our affordable insurance coverage and came desperately close to losing all the great assets that took nearly a century to develop.

Fortunately, our State Board of Education assisted by appointing three dedicated community members to help steer NIC out of harms way. However, their term will expire at the end of October and it is critical we elect three new, like-minded, trustees to office. Without the election of Pete Broschet, Brad Corkill and Tarie Zimmerman, we will go back down the wrong road we were on a year ago.

Just picture where NIC will be if these three community-loving people are not elected. Some will say, “How did this happen?” or, “Why didn’t someone do something?” But alas, it will be too late.

Please North Idaho Voters, do not let NIC get stolen from our community, our children and grandchildren’s future. You must vote for Pete Broschet, Brad Corkill and Tarie Zimmerman if you want our Gem by the Lake to continue to SHINE!

• • •

John Barlow is a Coeur d'Alene resident.

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