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CNC beefs up services, but students say more is needed

The College of New Caledonia passed a balanced $67 million budget on Friday afternoon, with plans for a significant number of new hires of faculty and staff.
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CNC students attend a Career in January 2017. Students told CNC board members that on-campus support services, such as career counselling and mental health programs, need to be improved.

The College of New Caledonia passed a balanced $67 million budget on Friday afternoon, with plans for a significant number of new hires of faculty and staff.

But students and faculty who attended the college's board meeting say the college is still not keeping up with the demands of ballooning enrolment from international students.

The budget included an increase of $5 million in spending, including an increase of 20 new faculty members, 10 new operational staff and five new administrative staff. The operational hires would include two new student advisors and three new tutors who would provide academic assistance to students. Notably, the budget included a $2 million increase in the budget for the college's international education department.

"This is, in my mind, a very good news budget for the institution," CNC President Henry Reiser said.

Under the budget, domestic students will see a two per cent increase in tuition fees in the 2018/19 school year. International students will see no increase to their tuition fees.

The Quesnel campus will see new staffing, with the addition of a trades tool room technician position, and a new operations manager for the campus. As part of the increase in funding for international education, a new administrator will be hired, while a new position will be created to recruit students in Aboriginal communities. The college will also be hiring a new cultural advisor for the Aboriginal initiatives program, and a new communications representative, among others.

The increases in staffing followed a budget consultation event in late January, in which staff pressed for increases in staffing to services such as career counselling and student tutoring.

A delegation of students from the College of New Caledonia Students' Union made a presentation before board members asking for increases in faculty and mental health programming at the college.

The students said that the college had made many improvements since 2015, when significant cuts were made to class offerings and services such as the daycare program. But, they said, there were still many challenges for students.

Harman Dandiwal, an organizer with the CNCSU, said some international students have arrived in Prince George from countries like India, only to find that there are no spaces available in their classes.

Many of these students have begun a petition drive asking for an increase in seats in popular programs, such as the business faculty and university transfers programs. Both of these programs are highly sought after by international students.

"That's an issue because when a student gets a visa, they come to CNC and go into the registration line just to find out that the program is full," Dandiwal said during the presentation.

"I graduated as an international student and I loved CNC. But I don't think I could be in a class as of today."

Mark Wendling, a faculty representative on the CNC board, also drew attention to a lack of clarity in the CNC budgeting process.

"Back in 2015, we went through some major cancellation of things: loss of jobs, completely wiping out our counselling services. In 2016 we turned around and had a surplus. One of the things we needed to determine why things were functioning so bad," Wendling said during the meeting.

"Last year when the budget came to us, it didn't look all that different. I asked where the increased detail was and was told 'you need to be patient.' Coming into 2018, looking at a budget, and the level of detail is still not where it needs to be."

The budget passed by a vote of seven to three. Wendling and the two student representatives on the board, Kamal Bindra and Lee Ann Mowbray voted against the budget.

Damon Robinson, a CNC student and editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, said the new hires planned by the budget were encouraging but did not go far enough.

"The new hirings for the tutoring and counselling services are appreciated. I do feel that more progress could be made. But I do acknowledge that they are doing something," Robinson said.

"That is somewhat disappointing. But we will continue to fight for that and bring it up in further meetings."