PABLO (KPAX) - In the shadows of the Mission Mountains is what is sometimes called 'the best kept’ secret. It's a tribal college that continues to forge ahead with innovative programs and updated facilities — a school that's all about helping its student thrive.

“When I see the work our instructors do, and the feedback from our students about what we need to do, and what we’re then able to do to meet those needs, yea, I’m pretty proud of this group of people here,” said Salish Kootenai College President Sandra Boham.

It's a college that is growing in both student population and degree options; a school that has even more visibility along Highway 93 with a brand-new electronic sign.

Work has also continued on the finishing touches for the new dental and allied health buildings — and a new and updated nursing facility will open soon. Those are just some of the programs students here are seeking.

“Nursing is definitely up at the top and so is teacher education. Our business program is growing rapidly and then we have a good core of natural resources programs, and we have a very healthy social work program,” Dr. Boham noted.

SKC offers certificates in construction and automotive skills, degrees in computer science and two master’s degrees. There is also now a path forward to preserving Tribal history and heritage in a program you’ll only find at SKC.

Additionally, SKC is offering 50% off tuition for everyone for the third year in a row. SKC is one of 35 tribal colleges throughout the nation, but you do not need to be a Tribal member to attend.

“The only reason we are here is for the students. So, you have got to take care of them,” Boham said.

SKC is also working on plans to build more student housing. During the pandemic, SKC focused on student retention by offering mental health services to food programs — anything to keep the approximately 650 students on the path to higher education.

"Because the students who come here are incredibly bright, but they come here believing, many of them, that they’re not,” Boham said.

“They just need to be able to believe in themselves. You know, someone once told me that SKC is the best kept secret. And you know, we don’t want to be the best kept secret,” Boham told MTN News.

“But sometimes we’re so busy doing what we do that we forget to tell people what we’re doing. It really is an amazing place and it kind of gets you and once you’re here, you're here,” Dr. Boham concluded.

SKC shared some of the following statistics about their success.

  • The current student population of 621 includes people from 53 North American tribes and 16 U.S. states and Canadian provinces.
  • 70% of students are first-generation college students and since its founding in 1977
  • Over 4,400 people have earned a degree from SKC.