This week Lakes District News attempted to ask the College of New Caledonia’s (CNC) administration for the full-time equivalent (FTE) student numbers at the Lakes District campus for the 2017/18 academic year.
Trying to obtain this information was no easy task.
In the end, the college did not release its FTE count, only releasing a “student headcount” instead – which many say can be deceiving since it doesn’t take into account the amount of hours that students spend on campus.
The main issue here was trying to understand why the college was not releasing the FTE numbers in the first place. That’s because their explanations seem to change every time I asked the same question.
When I first asked for this information, the college asked us “why the interest in FTEs in particular.”
“We’ve heard that FTEs are very difficult to understand,” said a college spokesperson. “Unless you’re able to provide the public with an accurate description of how to determine what an FTE is per program, my suggestion is that you continue to release headcount; it’s much easier for the community to understand.”
I thanked the spokesperson for their kind suggestion, but insisted that I was still interested in the FTE count (and that Burns Lakers are intelligent enough to understand what an FTE is) since that is the number that the provincial government uses to make their decisions.
The college then sent us an explanation on why they are no longer using FTEs in their public messaging.
“The reason FTE is not useful for public consumption is that the number does not fully represent student activity on a campus,” said the college’s statement.
I then called the college’s communications department to clarify if they were in fact refusing to release this information.
I was told that the college was not refusing information requests. At the end of the conversation I was told that the FTE count would be available once it is released to the provincial government in November.
But after that phone call I was still confused. It wasn’t clear if the public would also have access to this information.
So I sent another email to the college asking them to clarify if they would in fact release the FTE count to the public once they submit it to the ministry.
The college responded by saying that FTE numbers would be available on the ministry’s website once the college submits them, and that the reason they are not releasing this information now is because these numbers have not been reviewed by the ministry.
It was really hard to pick which of these explanations to use with our CNC story, but I hope that now you can see why.