Professional Technical Workforce Education is at the
top. It is the number one objective of the number one
goal for North Idaho College. That should be reassuring. The
college spent eight months working with community members
to develop their five year Strategic Plan, and at the
very top of the list is Professional Technical Education
The PTE program is important because it includes the
skills based learning so desperately needed in our region. Idaho's
PTE web site states they are "devoted to preparing
students for occupations requiring other than a four-year
college degrees as well as training workers already in
the workplace." Think hands-on skills like
auto mechanics, electrical, welding, plumbing and carpentry. But
also think technical training, computer skills, health
care support careers and more.
We must have a diversely educated employment population
to keep and recruit businesses which offer stable, career-level
jobs for our citizens. If we have a workforce of
only academically prepared people, we will turn away
technical and manufacturing companies. We need
balance, and right now the scales are tipped.
Many business leaders in our community have pushed,
prodded and pulled until the PTE program at NIC is finally
in the spotlight. The State allocated nearly a half million
dollars for PTE statewide last year but to help bolster
these important programs Senator Jim Hammonds and Rep.
Frank Henderson, both of Post Falls, worked diligently
to secure an additional $250,000 for the six Idaho PTE
schools this year. They were successful.
The College of Southern Idaho, which is the community
college down in Twin Falls, took the extra state money
and added even more than usual from its general fund
to give its PTE program a big boost.
But NIC behaved quite differently. They took
the additional $42,000 of state money for PTE but cut
their own general funding for the program by $33,000,
leaving NIC's PTE spinning in place and well behind the
efforts of southern Idaho.
I asked NIC Trustee Vice Chair Christie Wood, last
month when we met for coffee, why the budget for PTE
was cut when it is their number one strategic goal? She
said she was unaware of the cut and would look into the
question. Yet just weeks later, she voted along
with the whole Board to approve the budget, PTE cuts
The Press reported last Sunday that NIC President
Priscilla Bell was granted a 5% salary increase which,
along with additional benefits, raises her compensation
to $179,250, including $1000 per month for housing. Trustee
Christie Wood called this decision "a great show
Where is the college's confidence in PTE, their number
one goal? Where is their confidence in the students
who now face a tuition increase? President Bell
received 5% more pay but the students will pay 7.4% more
in tuition. And the promise of expanded PTE offerings
will not be supported by actual budgetary strength.
NIC's new Strategic Plan lists values which include "serving
the community", "ensuring access to education & training" and "maintaining
accountability". All nice words, all good intentions. But
the actions of the NIC Board send a different message.
Our community has clearly voiced that PTE is of utmost
importance. The students need cost effective access
to this type of education and training. Yet, with
NIC's budget cuts for PTE, coupled with tuition increases
and more money funneled to executive compensation, the
Board's accountability comes seriously into question. Their
actions do not match the words on their plan. Or
as Benjamin Franklin wrote, "Well done is better
than well said."