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Otter backs North Idaho College expansion in Sandpoint

BOISE – Idaho Gov. Butch Otter wants North Idaho College to receive state funds next year to expand its Sandpoint Outreach Center to offer more classes.

The $226,700 recommendation is part of a 9 percent increase in community college funding Otter is seeking next year. Much of the $2.8 million increase would cover enrollment increases at the fast-growing College of Western Idaho near Boise and occupancy costs for new buildings at both CWI and the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls.

NIC President Joe Dunlap welcomed the push for more money, which he said was “our only piece” of the increase.

“We serve over 600 students in Sandpoint,” he said. “The Sandpoint community has been extremely supportive and helped us raise $150,000 to put in a science lab.” The center provides an associate’s degree program without leaving Sandpoint. That wasn’t possible before the addition of the science lab. Lewis-Clark State College also partners with NIC to offer upper-level courses at the center.

If lawmakers go along with the governor’s recommendation, possible new programs at the Sandpoint center could include classes in outdoor pursuits, medical assisting, physical therapy assisting and more, Dunlap said.

“The city of Sandpoint helps offset our lease in our facility by $40,000 per year,” Dunlap told lawmakers Monday. “We are extremely grateful for their assistance and support. We hope you’ll see your way clear to support that as well.”

NIC serves the five northernmost counties in the state, Kootenai, Bonner, Boundary, Benewah and Shoshone. In addition to the Sandpoint center, the Coeur d’Alene-based college has outreach centers in the Silver Valley and Bonners Ferry.

The governor’s proposal also calls for funding for a new Idaho Falls outreach center for CSI and increased funding for nursing programs at CWI, which are transitioning from a professional-technical program to a full associate degree program. CWI, located west of Boise, is the state’s newest and fastest-growing community college, established in 2007.

North Idaho College is Idaho’s oldest, established in 1933. NIC gets 22.5 percent of its funding from the state general fund; most of the rest comes from tuition and fees or local property taxes.

One North Idaho College proposal that didn’t get the governor’s nod was establishing a new center to support veterans returning to school at NIC. The Coeur d’Alene college proposed hiring an adviser to staff the center and help student veterans access benefits and ease their transition back to school and civilian life.

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