The Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities has approved a motion expressing support for the intention of merging the accreditations of the five colleges of the Northeast Higher Education District (NHED) into one accredited college. The action paves the way for the District to proceed with comprehensive planning to merge the accreditations, and subsequent action by the Board of Trustees will be required to approve this plan. There are no plans to close any of the NHED campuses.

“Restructuring our five colleges into one accredited institution with six campuses will have many long-lasting benefits for our region,” said Michael Raich, interim president of NHED. “We will create seamless learning experiences for students across the region, expand academic programming regionally, strengthen regional employer, university, and K-12 partnerships, and improve operational efficiencies. Operating our six campuses under a single accreditation will allow us to leverage the capacity and flexibility of a larger, cohesive college while still maintaining the important individual campus identities that our communities have grown to trust.”

NHED consists of five colleges: Hibbing Community College, Itasca Community College, Mesabi Range College, Rainy River Community College, and Vermilion Community College. The district has a total of six campuses in Ely, Eveleth, Grand Rapids, Hibbing, International Falls, and Virginia. The total credit enrollment of the district is approximately 6,000. According to Raich, district-wide strategic planning, regional academic planning, and numerous campus meetings involving multiple stakeholder groups helped guide this decision.

“ICC itself is well positioned to continue to strongly meet community and regional education needs during and after this process,” Provost of Itasca Community College (ICC) Bart Johnson explained. “Visible changes could be new naming, more programs, and a wider variety of courses being offered on campus. This is a proactive decision by the five colleges allowing several years for the process to develop, ensuring it is constructed in the best way to serve students and communities, with minimal impact to employees.”

For next steps, NHED leadership will work with the Higher Learning Commission, the organization that accredits the colleges and universities of Minnesota State, to determine the necessary steps and application process for merging accreditations. The process of merging the campuses into one accredited college will take several years, according to Raich. He stated that the goal is to be operating under this new model by the Fall semester of 2022.

“The merger process is a continued strengthening of the existing collaboration between the five regional colleges of the Northeast Higher Education District; it will ensure that resources are focused on sustainable and expanding academic programs and services for students,” Johnson said. “Moving forward, Itasca will continue to have strong academic programs and student experiences on our local campus. The college will also continue to have a local presence and leadership to continue its valued partnerships, community relationships, and educational programs that remain focused on the communities of the greater Itasca County area. The NHED colleges already have a shared president, business services, human resources, shared academic programs, and some sharing of faculty and staff.”

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