Tribe closing college
Twelve years since its establishment, the Comanche Nation College will close at the end of the month, although tribal officials say the building will continue to used for educational purposes.
According to a statement issued by the Comanche Nation College Board of Trustees, the board and its president, Robbie Wahnee, were informed on Wednesday that they were dismissed but staff would continue to be employed.
The order for the college's closure was signed by the entirety of the Comanche Business Committee: Chairman William Nelson, Susan Cothren, Clyde Narcomey, Jonathan Poahway, Ron Red Elk, Robert Tippeconnie and Eddie Ahdosy, as well as Tribal Administrator Jimmy Arterberry.
In a statement to The Constitution, Nelson thanked all those associated with the Comanche Nation College since its inception. He cited the Business Committee's "fiduciary responsibility to tribal members" as the reason for its closure.
"After 14 years the college has not been able to receive accreditation and in November 2016 the CNC Board of Trustees withdrew its application for candidacy from the Higher Learning Commission," Nelson said. "Taking that into consideration, along with the investment of around $25 million with an additional $4 million in capital expenditures, the CBC determined it was in the best interest of the Nation to utilize the facility as an educational center. Along with other educational offerings, we plan to provide tutoring services in addition to a testing center which will become a revenue source for the Tribe."
The closure of the college comes as no surprise after its budget was removed from the tribe's $62.8 million fiscal year 2017-2018 line-item budget. A replacement of $3 million appropriated to "higher education" was approved by voters.
During the April general council meeting, in the attempt to take the budget before the council through a line-item vote, discussion about the Comanche Nation College (CNC) caused disruption before the motion could be seconded. Advocates of the college's funding were told the matter would be discussed later in the meeting, but a chaotic end to the proceedings caused the matter and others to never return to discussion. A special council meeting was called to address the issues, but the budget vote was scheduled and carried out before then.
The college had become a sore spot for some members of the tribe. As Nelson cited, the college had been participating in the accreditation process for many years, which was considered slow going by many tribal members and Business Committee representatives.
The college was first chartered in 2002 and established in 2005 in the former Will Rogers Elementary School as one of three federally chartered schools founded through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, according to Augustine McCaffery, former chair of the Board of Trustees.
Last November the school withdrew itself from the accreditation process. McCaffrey said that, during the 2016 evaluation process, some criteria had been met, some hadn't. It was recommended the college have another year of candidacy to address the unmet criteria. Withdrawing from the process, she said, would allow the college the opportunity to return to the process without losing all of the progress that had been made.