Tuesday, March 28, 2023

South addresses legislators, answers questions about accreditation

Hagadone News Network | January 26, 2023 1:00 AM

North Idaho College Interim President Greg South lauded the school’s career and technical education programs and faced questions about accreditation Wednesday when he addressed the Idaho House and Senate education committees in Boise.

South is in the state capitol for Education Week, an annual event during each legislative session that provides opportunities for the state's public college and university leaders to present to and network with lawmakers and budget writers about their institutions. South is accompanied by all five NIC trustees, as well as two of his new hires, Interim Provost Peggy Bradford and consultant Debbie DiThomas, along with other college staff.

NIC offers more than 40 career and technical education programs, ranging from manufacturing and trades, health care and varied business administration and management fields.

“This is where we train the skill sets that you have to have boots on the ground to do,” South said.

The college works, he said, with local industry partners to provide students with hands-on training and internships in the community.

South noted that 90% of students have jobs lined up by the time they complete NIC career and technical education programs.

Members of both education committees were interested in hearing from South about NIC's accreditation.

During a morning meeting with the House committee, Rep. Greg Lanting (R-Twin Falls) asked South if NIC has a plan for the worst-case scenario.

“Should they become unaccredited, what path forward do they have if they lose federal and state funding?” Lanting said.

South said it’s “premature” to consider such things.

“Things take on a life of their own on the internet,” South said. “But we are fully accredited. We will remain fully accredited. If they somehow decided to go to the next level of concern, which would be show cause, we would still be accredited.”

Later in the day, during the Senate Education Committee meeting, Sen. Carrie Semmelroth (D-Boise) noted ongoing governance issues at NIC that have been pointed out by its accrediting organization, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

“Because the loss of accreditation is really focused around board governance, what is the plan to address that issue?” Semmelroth asked.

South said the board’s presence in Boise illustrates the commitment trustees have made to cooperating.

“They’re here, they’re together and they realize we have to work on these governance issues,” he said.

He also pointed to Bradford and DiThomas, who he said he hired to help resolve the NWCCU’s concerns. DiThomas has a contract that runs from Jan. 9 to Feb. 3 with an option to extend. It’s unclear how long Bradford will be with NIC.

“What we had before wasn’t working, and we need people that are heavyweights in the accreditation process,” he said.

Semmelroth also questioned what might happen to CTE students if the college loses accreditation. In that case, she suggested, the Idaho State Board of Education may have to step in and ensure that students are moved to an accredited college.

“Will NIC leadership work with the board to make sure those students can continue their programs and progress by having access to the equipment at NIC if it’s moved under the governance of a different accredited institution?” Semmelroth asked.

South again emphasized that NIC is currently accredited.

“Things could go wrong, but it won’t happen that fast,” he said. “So it’s very premature to go that direction and speculating is probably inappropriate.”

Sen. Dave Lent (R-Idaho Falls) commended South for bringing in new staff to help address accreditation concerns.

“We urge you, in all urgency, to try to resolve those issues that are causing all of us to struggle a little bit throughout the state,” Lent said. “You have our support.”

South and the presidents of the state's three other community colleges are scheduled to address the members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee this morning. The meeting begins at 7 a.m. Pacific time and can be viewed online at idahoptv.org/shows/idahoinsession/jfac/.

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