There has been significant reporting in the community about enrolment numbers in Burns Lake, most recently in a letter to the editor titled ‘What’s the real enrolment at CNC in Burns Lake?’ The College of New Caledonia’s (CNC) goal is to report accurate data as per our strategic plan, to be accountable and transparent with the numbers we collect and share to both government and the general public.
First, CNC has been, and will continue to, release student headcount to the general public on a regular basis and full-time equivalents (FTEs) to the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training through official reporting twice a year (November and May) – similar to every post-secondary institution in the province. This information is received by the government and then reviewed and vetted before being posted publicly on their website months later.
CNC has not “taken steps to hide this information.” In fact, this past September, we put out an official media release citing the September 2017 enrolment headcount numbers for the Burns Lake campus, which have increased to 150 students from 81 the previous September 2016. This is significant, and we are optimistic that we will continue to see these numbers rise as we continue to invest in the campus and its educational programming.
We have also been clear that FTE numbers can be misleading, as they don’t accurately account for the number of students on campus. For example, one full-time trades student may be counted as a 1.0 FTE, while a full-time business student may be considered a 0.60 FTE. To demonstrate further, CNC’s actual student population across all six campuses based on the fiscal year of April 2016 to March 2017 is approximately 8151 total students including continuing education courses. Our FTE count for this same number is about 3443 students—a number that could negatively skew public perception if FTEs were the only number communicated.
By only referring to FTEs, the public may have an inaccurate summary of our enrolment at Lakes District campus when, in fact, the actual student headcount enrolment numbers for this September at our Burns Lake campus have almost doubled from the previous year.
We have canvassed other media outlets in the north-central region who have provided feedback that FTE numbers are misleading and confusing to their public and they would prefer we release headcount only. That brought us to the decision to release headcount numbers quarterly, so that the comparisons could be made at the same time, year over year, resulting in a transparent, consistent release of data.
Employee numbers are also optimistic: throughout the past three years, staffing at Burns Lake has either stayed stable or increased from 22 to 40. Again, official numbers are submitted to the ministry for verification and approval in November and May. They are the true representation of what is happening at the Burns Lake campus.
CNC has a dedicated history in the region delivering quality education for almost 50 years. We continue to find innovative ways to deliver relevant programming within our four rural community campuses, despite declining populations and a changing educational landscape.
Of our six campuses, we dedicate the third largest budget allocation to our Lakes District campus. This past year alone, we have opened a new Aboriginal Resource Centre, refurbished a student study lounge and invested in the exterior of the building with new windows and siding. We believe in our employees and our students and we’re looking for more opportunities in the community.
On Wednesday, Nov. 22, CNC invites the community to our digital delivery instruction open house on campus at 4 p.m. Later that evening, we’ll present to village council and discuss some of the challenges and opportunities the college faces as we share our vision for the future of education in the Lakes District. We look forward to the discussion and collaboration.
Executive director of communications for the College of New Caledonia