Accreditation Key Points

Key Points Archive

NIC has created the Key Points campaign to share up-to-date and relevant information with our constituents as information becomes available. All messages are archived below in date order by category.

Information in individual Key Points may change as NIC goes through a dynamic process with our accrediting body, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). We will do our best to reference updated information in archived Key Points, so any changes are reflected.

Accreditation Information

  • Show cause status is rare and unique to each situation

    Updated Thursday, March 16

    According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, only two other public institutes of higher education in the mainland U.S. have received a show cause sanction by their institutional accreditor since 2016.

    Though there are general outlines for accrediting bodies to follow during a show cause review, this is a rare process that is tailored to each school's unique situation and to their accreditor's concerns and requirements.

    The college - including the NIC Board of Trustees and college administration - are working through the show cause review in good faith with the NWCCU.

Next Steps

  • Potential next steps: reduction in sanction, extension for good cause or adverse action

    Updated Thursday, March 16

    The NWCCU's Accreditation Action Policy outlines three potential results to show cause review: a change in sanction level, an extension for good cause or adverse action.

    Positive response: Demonstrable progress towards resolving the concerns raised in a show cause sanction could result in a reduction of the level of sanction from show cause to probation or warning. With a lower sanction, NIC would be monitored and required to show continuing improvement until the college is back in compliance. If the institution does not continue to show improvement, show cause status could be reinstituted or an adverse action could be taken.

    Neutral response: An extension for good cause would be an extension of NIC's noncompliance status of show cause. This potential decision can be made under exceptional circumstances at the NWCCU's discretion, and the extension would last less than one year. In this outcome, NIC would be required to continue efforts toward earning "good standing" with the NWCCU.

    Negative response: "Adverse action" would be taken if an institution has not demonstrated compliance in their show cause response, including the report and on-site visit. Adverse action can be appealed through the NWCCU Appeals Procedure.

    The NWCCU Appeals Procedure would allow NIC to file a written appeal in the case that the college receives adverse action. The appeal board's decision would be the NWCCU's final decision, though the NWCCU also allows for arbitration procedure, in which a group of independent higher education and accreditation experts review the NWCCU appeal board's decision.

    For more information, see the NWCCU's Accreditation Action Policy, Appeal Procedure and Arbitration Policy

  • Current timeline to NWCCU decision: March 7

    Updated Tuesday, March 7

    There are several events leading up to a decision by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) regarding NIC's accreditation. This is the current timeline of events as of Tuesday, March 7; dates are subject to change at any time at the NWCCU's discretion.

    MARCH 31: NIC must submit a written response to the NWCCU's show cause letter by March 31. In this response, NIC must provide evidence that the college has made all necessary improvements and meets the NWCCU's standards. The NWCCU identified 26 individual points of concern in the show cause letter that must be addressed in NIC's response.

    APRIL 26-27: The NWCCU is scheduled to conduct an on-site visit to NIC's campus to verify the college's progress as outlined in our show cause response due March 31. Five representatives from the NWCCU will conduct the visit, and the college will share more information when it is available.

    JUNE 20-23: The NWCCU's next commission board meeting is scheduled for June 20-23 in Seattle, and NIC's accreditation is expected to be a discussion and action item during this meeting; however, the NWCCU retains the right to call an emergency meeting at any time. It is also up to the NWCCU's discretion whether to require NIC representatives to appear before the NWCCU as it considers the college's accreditation status.

    If NIC receives a negative response from the NWCCU, the college would remain accredited until a withdrawal date specified by the NWCCU.

    In NIC receives a positive response from the NWCCU, the college would be given up to one year to continue demonstrating compliance with the NWCCU's requirements and standards with the goal of restoring an accreditation status of good standing.

Student Impact

  • Spring '23 credits are legitimate; NIC students will have a path forward regardless of accreditation decision

    Updated Tuesday, March 7

    Any NIC credit earned during Spring 2023 - and any previous semester going back to 1947 - is a legitimate college credit with accreditation by the NWCCU. Students' credits will transfer and will count toward academic degrees and/or certificates, as they always have.

    NIC's accreditation status stands throughout the show cause review with the NWCCU.

    Until the NWCCU makes an official decision, NIC remains accredited. The college anticipates a decision from the NWCCU by late June.

    If NIC receives a positive response from the NWCCU, accreditation will stand; students and credits would not be impacted, and NIC would continue operations as normal while college administrators and the NIC Board of Trustees work to continue compliance with the NWCCU's standards and requirements.

    If NIC receives a negative response from the NWCCU, the college would develop a teach-out agreement to offer reasonable opportunities for students to complete their programs of study. Since a teach-out agreement has not yet been required, the details of such an agreement have not been developed.

    In the case that NIC loses accreditation, the Idaho State Board of Education (SBOE) - the state entity that oversees all public colleges, universities and school districts in Idaho - has promised that as a state board, "we have your (NIC students') back."

    Here is the partial statement from SBOE President Kurt Liebich released on Dec. 21, 2022:

    "For students, regardless of what happens through this process, the credits you've earned - whether you are alumni or you just finished your exams for the last semester - those credits are good, and they will be recognized throughout the State of Idaho. I'm hopeful ... that the (NIC Board of Trustees) will do whatever it can to address the concerns that are out there, and that's where I hope we end up.

    "But in a worst-case scenario, and North Idaho College does lose its accreditation, what I will commit to you is that this State Board is going to stand behind our students and we will do whatever we can to ensure there are off-ramps to other higher education institutions and that students have a seamless path forward to achieve whatever dreams they have."

    Read the full SBOE statement regarding NIC and its accreditation review.

  • Show cause response requires a teach-out plan — not a formal agreement

    Updated Monday, Feb. 27

    The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) requires NIC to include a teach-out plan with its response to the Feb. 9 show cause letter in accordance with federal requirements regarding a show cause sanction.

    In NIC's current teach-out plan requirement, the college is tasked with providing the NWCCU with the following information:

    • Number of current students enrolled in NIC programs
    • Number of programs currently offered through NIC
    • List of similar programs available through other regional institutions and organizations

    The required teach-out plan is a preliminary and overarching plan framework, not a formal agreement. There is a clear distinction between a teach-out plan and a teach-out agreement as defined by federal law.

    The requirement of a formal teach-out agreement would happen in the case that closure is certain - NIC is still working through an extensive process with the NWCCU, and no adverse decision regarding NIC's accreditation has yet been made.

    NIC is also in a unique situation. In most cases of accreditation loss, financial issues are a significant factor; however, NIC is financially stable. Because of this unique nature, there is no typical process or procedure, and the NWCCU would likely seek additional guidance from the U.S. Department of Education in the case that a formal teach-out agreement is required of NIC.

    If a formal teach-out agreement is required in the future, NIC would develop that agreement in partnership with other higher education institution(s) for the NWCCU to consider and ultimately approve under the guidance of the U.S. Department of Education.

    Representatives from the NWCCU emphasize that no decision regarding NIC's accreditation is being made without considering potential impacts on 4,000+ current NIC students. Representatives also stress that it is the sincere hope of the accrediting body that NIC is successful in its progress through the show cause review.

    The college will give students, faculty, staff and the community notice if the NWCCU requires more information regarding a teach-out plan or any potential teach-out agreement.

    The NWCCU's policy regarding accreditation actions is based on federal law.

College Business and Operations

  • NIC conducting search for long-term legal counsel

    Updated Monday, Feb. 27

    In a commitment to maintaining quality professional legal counsel for the college, North Idaho College's Office of Finance and Business has issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) for ongoing legal counsel. OFAB originally issued RFQ 23-01 for legal counsel on Jan. 1 with a closing date of Jan. 27; however, the search failed due to an insufficient number of responses - two law firms responded to the original RFQ.

    The search has been extended, and the current RFQ 23-01R was released Feb. 13 with a March 6 due date. Interim President Greg South said the college has expanded the scope of the search beyond our region to seek legal counsel that specializes in higher education and accreditation. An NIC selection committee, will review the proposals to make a final decision regarding candidates and will authorize the OFAB to enter a contract with new legal counsel.

    The current RFQ includes the timeline to negotiate a contract in mid-March and begin legal services by April 1.

    NIC is currently represented by the attorney Arthur B. Macomber, who was appointed as interim legal counsel by the NIC Board of Trustees after the resignation of NIC's long-standing legal counsel to ensure the college has legal representation.

    All current requests for proposals/qualifications, including status and detailed requirements of each RFP/RFQ, are posted publicly on the NIC website.

In an effort to be transparent and open, the college has posted all communications with the NWCCU.

We are also providing accurate and timely information.

And we have a provided a list of FAQs about accreditation and what it means for all our constituents.

Thank you for your interest and concern about NIC. Our community is a significant part of what makes NIC so special, and our campus community is committed to the most important of all our goals: serving students.

The information provided here is subject to change. The content of NIC's Key Points is subject to change because of new action by any party, availability of new information, and changes in requirements and/or status. The college is committed to providing the best knowledge we have at the time to our community.