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MY TURN: Consequences of accreditation loss are coming

by TIM CHRISTIE/Guest opinion
| January 5, 2023 1:00 AM

Although you may have been told that accreditation was not at risk, it seems that most knowledgeable people consider it to be inevitable. NIC will lose accreditation. The college would have to wait two years before reapplying.

The fact that the board received a memo from the acting co-presidents listing steps necessary to meet the requirements of Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), and ignored that advice, was the final blow.

When this occurs, this is what will happen: The NWCCU will issue a termination date. On that date, the college will no longer be accredited. The unknown is the date. It could be immediate or it could be months away. NIC would be the first college to lose accreditation on the West Coast. There are a lot of unknowns.

The state only funds accredited institutions. State funding is one of three revenue sources for the college. The state is responsible for assisting the college in "teaching out." That means that the college has two years to allow currently enrolled students to complete their programs. The State Board of Education has already told the college to start preparing its teach out programs. The state will fund this, but not at the current rate. State revenue will decrease.

Tuition is the second funding stream. NIC enrollment is already down. There will be no new students in the summer or the fall. Tuition dollars will drop drastically. Students will no longer be eligible for financial aid.

The final funding source is property taxes. I would imagine the citizens of Kootenai County would not be willing to pay for an unaccredited institution. This will end up in court.

My understanding is that any individual or group who suffers material damage as a result of the loss of accreditation has grounds for individual lawsuits or class action suits.

The end game appears to be this: The end to an affordable, excellent college option in North Idaho. Young people from North Idaho will no longer have the option to stay home and attend NIC. They can apply to LCSC or the U of I. Tuition costs will be higher and most programs will require that they move to Moscow or Lewiston. They could attend one of the Spokane Community Colleges and pay out-of-state tuition.

There will be the loss of approximately 1,020 jobs. NWCCU commended the faculty and staff for their exemplary work. Through no fault of their own, these people will lose their jobs, health care coverage and pensions.

Dual enrollment will cease. The Workforce Training Center will close as will the Parker Center. A protracted battle over what do with the buildings and land will begin. And there will be lawsuit, after lawsuit, after lawsuit.

The NWCCU identified governance at the trustee level as the major concern. Trustees Waggoner, Banducci and McKenzie appear to have their heads in the sand and refuse to acknowledge this very real threat. Let them know that we cannot lose NIC.

• • •

Tim Christie is a resident of Coeur d'Alene.

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