The College of New Caledonia (CNC) is betting on its digital delivery initiative (DDI) to increase enrolment numbers at the Lakes District campus.
The campus has been facing a decline in the number of enrolments over the past few years. While the number of full-time equivalent students in 2013/14 was 323, it declined to 210 in 2014/15, and to 117 in 2015/16.
“Despite the declining numbers, we’re looking at how we can make the campus thrive,” said Jay Notay, CNC’s vice president of community and student services. “We’re gonna do everything we possibly can to get the numbers up where they need to be.”
The college hopes that its DDI initiative, which allows real-time synchronized delivery of instructor-led lectures to classrooms across multiple CNC campuses, will help increase enrolment numbers across the north.
“In Quesnel, in the fall, we had seven courses through this method [DDI],” said Notay. “These courses were previously offered, but were cancelled because we didn’t have the numbers to justify a class; with DDI, because they connect with a class in Prince George, they were able to offer it.”
“If students have the opportunity to access more courses or programs that they didn’t have a chance to access before, intuitively you would think the numbers would go up,” he added.
The DDI method is currently being offered in Prince George and Quesnel. However, all CNC campuses have been equipped and the college hopes to expand program delivery to Burns Lake, Vanderhoof and Fort St. James throughout the 2017/18 academic year.
Since the 2015 fall semester, 679 students have taken 25 courses offered through the DDI initiative.
“We are encouraged by the initial feedback that we are getting on our DDI initiative from both students and faculty,” said CNC president Henry Reiser. “Our plans to expand access to this technology and increase capacity will allow students to study closer to home.”
Notay said another possible solution to the ongoing enrolment decline would be attracting international students. He said the new regional principal hired at the Lakes District campus, Corinne George, was tasked with assessing the possibility of offering programs to international students in Burns Lake.
George has also been tasked with engaging community members to find out what other programs could be offered in the community.
“We have a regional principal that’s able to work with the community, understand where the community is going so can shift programs according to that,” said Notay.
Notay said the continuing education courses offered at the Lakes District campus have also been promising, with 1028 registrants since January 2017.
According to CNC, Burns Lake is not the only community struggling with enrolment decline, and a number of factors have influenced this scenario. Notay says that a decline in kindergarten to Grande 12 enrolment in public schools, as well as a slower population growth in rural areas compared to urban areas have contributed to the decline.
However, he says CNC’s restructuring over the past two yeas has allowed the college to offset the decline.
“We are no longer in a budget deficit situation, for two consecutive years,” he said. ‘We’re investing heavily and looking at the long-term viability of our programming here [in Burns Lake].”
Despite the improvement, the CNC board agreed earlier this year to a two per cent increase to tuition this fall to address the college’s “rising operational costs.”
Notay added that the base funding of the Lakes District campus – the amount invested each year in the campus – has remained the same over the past three years.
No layoff notices issued this year in Burns Lake
According to Jay Notay, CNC’s vice president of community and student services, there will be no layoff notices issued this year at the Lakes District campus.
CNC’s collective agreement states that the college must provide layoff notices for faculty staff by March 31 of each year. Operational layoff notices can be given throughout the year.
Although three layoff notices were given last year, only one faculty position – counsellor – was terminated.
“However, we are reviewing how we can bring back counselling positions throughout the institution,” said Notay.
In the 2012/13 academic year, the college had a total of 124 staff. In 2015/16, the number of staff was reduced to 52. This number includes what the college refers to as “soft-funded” employees, which includes part-time faculty and operational employees in term positions related to specific contracts.