SANDPOINT — It’s only a matter of time until a full college education is available locally.
Coming on the heels of a significant expansion in the North Idaho College satellite campus in Sandpoint, regional education authorities are working to expand local education opportunities even more. According to Mark Browning, North Idaho College vice president of community relations and marketing, personnel at both North Idaho College and Lewis-Clark State College aim to introduce a series of four-year degree programs — possibly as early as fall of 2014.
“It is our intent along with our partners to offer four-year degrees and upper division classes as soon as possible,” Browning said.
However, there are many puzzle pieces that need to come together before the new programs are ready, making an introductory date far from certain, Browning added. Associates from both colleges will be collaborating to determine the types of degrees most needed in Bonner County and what classes will be needed to launch those programs.
There is also a question of how those courses will be delivered, whether it be through in-town teachers, Internet class streaming, online classes or a combination of those approaches. Finally, college administrators will need to ensure that all programs meet proper accreditation standards to ensure the degrees will be recognized.
There may be plenty of work ahead, but Browning said he is confident the collaboration between North Idaho College and Lewis-Clark State College will be effective. The two institutions have worked together in the past on joint programs, and Browning said this will be another worthy endeavor to tackle in tandem.
“We think we have a model of collaboration that could be useful for the rest of the state to follow,” he said.
In the case of local four-year programs, each college will be able to leverage different resources and offer different classes based on their specialties. For example, one college could focus on offering classes for engineering studies while the other could handle English-related classes.
Ever since North Idaho College expanded its presence in Sandpoint last year, the lack of an on-site science lab has been a persistent issue. The facility needs a proper lab to meet the science requirements for general college education. Browning said they are currently fundraising for the improvements and have been amazed by local generosity.
“The community has been tremendous,” he said. “We really can’t express our gratitude enough.”