The president of the College of New Caledonia is convinced bringing video-conferencing to its Burns Lake campus means students will continue to be able to take the courses they need.
“The instructor will be a live feed into the classroom and will be just like having an instructor there. Students will be able to participate face to face with the instructor,” said Henry Reiser last week in response to a series of questions about budget cuts coming to the college’s operations.
And he has hopes the college can start a shuttle bus to bring students to the Burns Lake campus from outlying areas.
“What I have heard is that many kids have to hitchhike to school so we are considering a shuttle and possible partnership with First Nations to help underwrite expense,” said Reiser, cautioning that the plan is in its very preliminary stages.
Reiser was in Burns Lake last week to answer questions about cuts to counselling services and to face-to-face instruction.
Faced with a budget deficit of as much as $2.8 million, the college board meets April 24 to craft a spending document for its new budget year.
Reiser was also questioned about the possible end to family programs at the Burns Lake campus, regarded by college employees and residents as one of its more successful operations.
He said that the programs are subsidized and that while the college may receive revenue from them, they are not part of the college’s core business.
“There are other agencies in Burns Lake better suited [to providing them],” said Reiser in listing the Elizabeth Fry Society and the Northern Health Authority.
“If we are not successful in transitioning them to other agencies we will re-look at them at that time,” he said.
The prospect of layoffs and cuts at the college’s Burns Lake campus has drawn protests and appearances at public meetings.
Burns Lake mayor Luke Strimbold, one of several local residents who traveled to speak to college board members in Prince George, warned that the college is breaking a trust with the community.
“I see that trust quickly diminishing because decisions are not being made close to home and a new education philosophy is being implemented without the community’s input,” he said.
The College of New Caledonia is not the only post-secondary institution in the north affected by budget problems.
Northwest Community College is also contemplating cuts to its university credit programs in response to low enrolments.
The College of New Caledonia’s move to video conference instruction is being aided by $150,000 from pipeline builder TransCanada, part of a $250,000 grant announced last month.
Henry Reiser answered two other questions while meeting in Burn Lake: Can you make comment on how much in dollar figures the government is helping CNC out with their deficit?
“Advanced Education approved an operating deficit for CNC of up to $2M for the 2014/15 year (this ended March 31, 2015). Our board is expected to pass a balanced budget for the 2015/16 fiscal year, and the College is expected to operate within that budget.”
You mentioned the CNC has the lowest tuition fee in the province but that is it going up – can you just give me a basic overall on what it was and what it will be?
“In 2014/15 a 45 hour standard lecture course was $251.55; as of August 1, 2015 it will be 256.58, an increase of just over $5.”