Cindy Oliver will have one message for the College of New Caledonia Board of Governors this afternoon.
“When programs are cut,” the president of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of B.C. says, “the students end up suffering.”
Oliver will be one of the presenters at a special forum called by the board to get public input on a proposal to suspend student intakes into some programs to help meet this year’s budget. The vote on the matter was supposed to be at today’s board meeting, but that vote has now been postponed until the April 24 meeting, and a public forum will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. in Room 1-306 at the college.
“It’s quite devastating what’s happening,” Oliver said Wednesday. “We’re seeing this played out at institutions across the province. Programs being cut, reduced opportunities for students, access to tuition-free English as a Second Language and Adult Basic Education being dropped.
“Often these programs don’t come back.”
CNC had indicated earlier this month it was suspending intakes into some dental programs as well as the Aboriginal Early Childhood Education (AECE) program.
“We realize they are looking at making changes to the programs,” Oliver says, “but that also means they’re probably going to be charging more. Students are already staggering under their debt load as it is.”
She says CNC is doing what it sees necessary to make its budget work under provincial guidelines, and says Victoria needs to take steps to make sure schools can give people the opportunities they, and the province, need.
“There is a looming skills shortage, we hear, and if they continue cutting programs at B.C. schools, they’re going to have to bring these people in. The province touts its jobs plan, but they need to find ways to help smaller institutions, like CNC.
“We’re looking at the results of 14 years of chronic underfunding.”
Taking away these programs will be a blow to the community as a whole, she says.
“There are a lot of people who don’t have a dentist, who rely on the dental programs at CNC. What are they going to do if the clinic there closes?
“The dental programs are generally filled with a lot of women, and they usually get jobs when they’re finished the program.
“It’s very shortsighted of CNC and the government to take these opportunities away.”
Oliver says it wouldn’t take much money, from the government point of view, to improve things.
“They could take $30 million, which is 1.5 per cent of the Ministry of Advanced Education budget, and put all these programs back in place, and make Adult Basic Education tuition-free again.
“They just choose not to spend the money that way.”
She feels people need to put more pressure on the provincial government to fund post-secondary education.
“There are high-profile MLAs in this area, such as Shirley Bond. People need to start talking to her about the government’s priorities. They have a surplus, there are extra funds available, and they just gave away a tax break to high-income earners.
“When Naomi Yamamoto was the minister, all 25 institution presidents sent her a letter about the funding crisis. That was unprecedented.
“We think they need to send another letter.”