Only community college in North Idaho to retain accreditation … for now

A drone photo shows the North Idaho College Campus along the shores of a lake surrounded by trees.
North Idaho College sits on the shores of Lake Coeur d'Alene. (Credit: NIC Flickr)



North Idaho College has been given another year to resolve issues outlined by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The NWCCU, the commission in charge of accreditation, wants to see better financial transparency and ethical conduct from the college.

The issues were defined in a letter to North Idaho College (NIC) from the NWCCU said NIC President Nick Swayne. 

“It is a process, so you are going to continue to see kind of ebbs and flows in that as we move forward,” said Swayne. “There is a strong commitment by the board to make progress and move forward, and certainly from me as well.” 

The five-member NIC Board of Trustees currently has a 3-2 conservative majority. After NIC President Rick MacLennan implemented a campus mask mandate in 2021, he was fired by the board without cause. Because of MacLennan’s 12-month contract with NIC, he was still paid just shy of $500,000 despite no longer working for the college, as reported by the Coeur d’Alene Press.

Board of trustee members have previously made claims about educators pushing a liberal agenda. But North Idaho College President Nick Swayne said keeping the college open is not a game of politics. 

“It’s not conservative versus liberal or anything like that. We provide a necessary, important service to the community and our students,” said Swayne. 

A brick covered student union building sits on concrete with flags flying nearby against a blue sky.

The Student Union Building on NIC’s campus. (Kaitlyn Nicholas / NWPB)

Another stipulation of the accreditation extension is that the Board of Trustees must, “Understand, embrace and adhere to existing shared governance structure in place at North Idaho College and comply with them,” according to a statement on the NIC website. 

Seasoned consultants from the American Community College Trustees were hired in January 2023 and continue to work with and train the board and the president on how to better govern the institution, said Swayne.

“We’re working on everything from developing the strategic plan to developing the president’s goals, and developing the board’s goals,” Swayne said.

Academically, the college is thriving, said Swayne.

“All of our programs are passing, and our students have no problem transferring credits to other institutions,” he said.

NIC offers degrees in accounting, business management, music and art. The college’s Workforce Training Center offers multiple trade programs. 

A woman in a black jacket and green ball cap sits at a table holding a white mug filled with tea.

Coeur d’Alene resident Victoria Lupold said she is glad NIC retained its accreditation for the time being. “I think NIC is great for this town and this area,” she said. (Credit: Lauren Paterson / NWPB)

“We have machinists, diesel mechanics, auto body repair, the kind of programs that keep businesses up and running in the area,” Swayne said.

Victoria Lupold was born and raised in Coeur d’Alene, and recently moved back. Now that NIC has retained its accreditation, she’s considering registering in the fall to finish the two degrees she started at the community college. 

“I am really happy that NIC has been given another chance, because there aren’t that many options for college in the area,” said Lupold. 

Despite being a smaller school, Lupold said the community college has a broad array of programs to choose from, and a beautiful campus next to Lake Coeur d’Alene. 

“I’m really happy I have the option to go back now,” said Lupold, who wants to complete her associate’s degrees in Art and Education. 

Coeur d’Alene City Councilmember Christie Wood was formerly elected to the college’s board of trustees and said the NWCCU made the right decision to give the community more time to save the college. However, Wood said in an emailed statement that she hopes the NWCCU will keep monitoring the board’s conservative majority, who she described as, “entirely focused on their far right ideology, rather than the mission of the college, and the value of it to our community.”

The NWCCU will return to the campus for an on-site visit this fall.