Village seeking to bring a new college campus to the Burns Lake

The Nicola Valley Institute of Technology could soon establish a rural campus in the Lakes District.

The Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT), with campuses in Merritt and Vancouver, could soon establish a rural campus in Burns Lake.

Since the Lakes District post-secondary education committee was formed, it has been trying to find post-secondary institutions that might be suitable to meet the needs of the students in the Lakes District.

Earlier this year, the committee approached NVIT to ascertain their interest in a partnership.

According to the Village of Burns Lake, the college’s response has been “very favourable.” In fact, NVIT president Ken Tourand has visited Burns Lake to review the situation first-hand.

In a letter dated Aug. 18, 2016 to the minister of advanced education Andrew Wilkinson, the village and the six local First Nations groups request that the minister engage with NVIT to establish a post-secondary education institution in the Lakes District.

The letter explains that post-secondary education in the Lakes District has been undergoing a transition in recent years. In 2013, the College of New Caledonia (CNC) began implementing a new management approach for regional campuses that has resulted in loss of campus and community control over programming, reduced funding, and elimination of programs and services at the Lakes District campus.

“The impacts at the campus have been significant, with drastic declines in FTEs [full-time equivalent enrollments] and staffing,” says the letter.

In response to the cutbacks and restructuring at CNC, the Lakes District post-secondary education committee was formed in 2015. Consisting of community members, First Nations leaders, industry and local government representatives, the committee hopes to develop and implement a model of locally-governed post-secondary education for the Lakes District.

“People want to regain and expand on what was already in existence at the [CNC] Lakes District campus before the cutbacks,” explained committee member Cathy Ashurst.

Earlier this year, the committee announced it had secured funding of almost $170,000 to meet its goal.

Lakes District News asked CNC if there would be any impacts to the Lakes District campus if NVIT establishes a campus in Burns Lake. CNC president Henry Reiser said, “CNC is always on the look-out for innovative ways to deliver high-quality post-secondary education in communities in the region.”

“This could include potential collaboration with other public post-secondary institutions,” he continued. “While I am aware of discussions in the community, there are no formal proposals at this time.”

Earlier this year the CNC board of directors were invited to be partners in the creation of a new education model in Burns Lake; however, the CNC board “respectfully declined” the invitation.

The Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) has been an Aboriginal public post-secondary institute since 1995, offering relevant credentials for future First Nation leaders in the fields of wellness, governance, land and economic development. The institute believes in a holistic approach to education whereby the student’s knowledge base is enhanced by those values unique to First Nations culture.