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EDITORIAL: The deeper story at North Idaho College

| April 7, 2024 1:00 AM

This opinion piece has been corrected to show that overall NIC enrollment did not increase 12.9%, as reported in multiple news sources. According to NIC officials, enrollment for spring actually decreased 3.9%; the 12.9% growth referred only to first time degree-seeking students.

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Sorry to tease you, but Kootenai County will soon become richer by the addition of two of the better and brighter retirees wandering this overwrought planet.

Can’t share their names yet — until they’re actually back “home” from their relocation to a southern state, it can’t be considered a 100% done deal — but a recent conversation with this power couple sparked today’s editorial.

After a deep dive over lunch into much of what ails North Idaho College — which amounted to three names of trustees — one of the returning duo frowned.

“I suppose enrollment is down,” she said. “Is it way down?”

As a matter of fact, she was told, NIC enrollment is up in an important category.

Way up.

In case you also missed it, NIC President Nick Swayne shared the good news with checkbook holders in the Idaho Legislature.

Speaking to legislators in February, Swayne said spring enrollment for first time, degree-seeking students at NIC was up 12.9% over last year. That number increased even further - to 18.3% - after Swayne spoke.

"That's not a function of Idaho Launch because Idaho Launch doesn't kick in until fall," Swayne said, referring to a state program that will allow high school graduates to receive up to $8,000 to attend community college, complete workforce training or pursue career-technical education. "That's a product of dedicated staff and faculty and administrators who have been working diligently on recruiting, retention and marketing."

While overall enrollment is down 3.9% compared to the prior spring, NIC officials point to the first time degree-seeking influx of students as a harbinger of higher overall enrollment ahead.

It’s OK to wonder if at least some of the growth isn’t the product of all the alarming reports reverberating from the college the past few years. Maybe the recruiting, retention and marketing experts are firmly connected to customers who realize now what an incredible asset they’ve got — and newly awakened, they’re taking advantage of it.

Regardless of all the whys, let’s keep sight of the fact that the people actually delivering quality education at North Idaho College have not laid down under the trustee majority’s oppressive reign. Instead, they’re towering over the trio, undaunted by the long, dark shadow of possible accreditation loss stemming from trustee mismanagement. 

Mayhem might make more headlines, but the real story here is NIC’s stunning success — a story to cheer about.