NIC unveils new Sandpoint digs

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Jimmie O’Harra, North Idaho College e-learning systems administrator, demonstrates the new computer lab and technology options available at NIC at Sandpoint’s new location. (Photo by CAMERON RASMUSSON)

SANDPOINT — The future is looking bright for regional educational opportunities with the official dedication of the local North Idaho College campus.

Now headquartered at the Sandpoint Events Center after a deal brokered this summer, the expanded campus will bring new classes and opportunities to locals seeking to expand their education. Beyond the initial offerings, college administrators are kicking off fundraising efforts to install a $100,000 science lab in the facility, which will allow residents to earn an associate’s degree without setting a foot outside of city limits.

“This relationship we have with Sandpoint means a tremendous amount to us,” North Idaho College President Joe Dunlap said.

 Community residents, officials and business leaders turned out Thursday night to tour NIC at Sandpoint’s new home, which is spread out across Sandpoint Events Center and its auxiliary facility.

With more room to stretch its legs and superior access to amenities and technology, the new location allows for a broader range of classes.

The first floor of the auxiliary center features a workforce training center that facilitates comparatively short classes in fields such as commercial driving certification and nursing — occupations that individuals can train in quickly to get back into employment as soon as possible.

The area also contains an activity room suitable for yoga, zumba and dance classes, while a dramatically expanded computer room features connectivity to the main campus in Coeur d’Alene.  

On the second floor, students can access the local administration office and a center to obtain basic educational credentials like GED certification.

The main building will contain an NIC bookstore, the advising center, a connection with Area Agency on Aging of North Idaho, admissions and financial aid information and an interactive video conferencing center with the capacity to live-stream lectures and seminars.

All that’s missing is a science lab, and North Idaho College employees are working to remedy that.

According to alumni relations and development coordinator Katie Lien Elwell, the college’s goal is to have the necessary $100,000 raised by April 30.

Elwell said NIC officials will first ask for donations from large banks and businesses, followed by an appeal to alumni afterward for the remainder of the money needed to launch the science lab.

With science credits a necessary requirement for degree-seeking students, the addition will allow high school students to pursue dual enrollment and graduates to earn an associate’s degree.

There are even bigger plans for the future, Dunlap and others said. Through partnerships with other educational institutions like University of Idaho and Lewis-Clark State College, NIC officials said they hope to eventually offer a full bachelor’s degree program in Sandpoint.

“(This expansion) really gives us more options to consider in how to further our collaboration with NIC,” said Kathy Martin, Lewis-Clark State College dean of community programs and governmental relations.  

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