The College of New Caledonia (CNC) has stated that for the 2016-17 academic year, the enrolment at our Burns Lake college campus was 49 full-time equivalent (FTE) students. This is an 85 per cent drop from 2014 when there were 323 FTE students attending.
It is extremely concerning, but not surprising, to hear that CNC will no longer be releasing to the public the number of FTE students for our campus. CNC now says that FTE information is “not useful for public consumption.” In fact, the FTE count is incredibly useful. It is a standard measure of colleges’ enrolments and is a very reliable indicator of its relevance to our community. Why would CNC take steps to hide that information? FTE data has always been made available in the past, and CNC should not be keeping this information from the community. CNC leadership owes it to our community to be transparent about the health of our campus, even if the facts are brutal.
The 85 per cent enrolment drop confirms that CNC’s changes to Burns Lake’s college services have caused large numbers of local students to vote with their feet – they have either dropped out of college or have chosen to pursue more suitable educational services elsewhere. It also tells us that our college has been made 85 per cent less relevant to the Burns Lake community. Our community needs CNC’s leadership to face the facts of their current enrolment, and be honest with our community about how much their decision-making has hurt our local college.
Having an active, relevant community college in Burns Lake represents a major economic and social asset for our community. The economic impact assessment, commissioned by the village, estimated a loss of $3.65 million in wages (direct and indirect) between 2013 and 2017. It’s questionable whether CNC Burns Lake can even maintain a viable community college campus with an enrolment of 49 FTE. Our community also needs to know if campus FTE enrolment is continuing to plummet. It would be unacceptable to have such a valuable enterprise slip away from us because CNC has not been forthright with our community about their declining enrolment.
Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) is currently offering several programs in Burns Lake – and it is likely they will have more full-time students in the region then any other post-secondary institution. NVIT is interested in opening a northern campus. However, NVIT is also looking at other northern communities – this option may be slipping away from the community.
CNC needs to recognize the message contained in their enrolment drop, and step aside so that a new provider with a better vision, more aligned with our community needs, can take over. What a waste it would be to lose our campus because outsiders (CNC Prince George central administration) have rendered it irrelevant and simply haven’t cared enough to help us fix the problem.
Bernice Magee, Cathy Ashurst, Chantal Reid, Scott Zayac, Priscilla Crouse, Monty Palmantier, Luke Strimbold, Chantal Reid and Rick Pooley