CNC calls for feedback amid restructuring efforts

As the College of New Caledonia wrestles with deficits year after year and missed provincial enrolment targets, this month it will move into the community consultation phase of a five-year strategic plan to determine its next steps.

The 2016-2020 Strategic Plan "will guide the college into the future, and hold us accountable to our communities and partners" and "ensure alignment with regional needs," according to a July 2015 Accountability Report to the Ministry of Advanced Education.

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"CNC continues to manage budget challenges and has undertaken a fundamental administrative re-organization," it continued.

The five-year plan is part of an ongoing restructuring at the college, spearheaded by president Henry Reiser, who joined the college in June 2014.

The college has since departed from the first iteration - the "One College Plan" - which launched in January 2015.

"(F)eedback from the communities suggested this title was subject to misunderstanding. It didn't clearly describe the direction the college was heading in and resulted in much anxiety in the regions as it was assumed that this title referred to the predominance of the Prince George campus," said Reiser in a newsletter to students addressing the 2015-16 Action Plan.

"This was never the intention."

It has since undergone "rigorous editing and revision," and the college is still proceeding with a restructuring, led by Reiser, the newsletter noted.

"The intent is to strengthen academic standards and equity of student services at all campuses, ensure resources are distributed strategically and effectively across the institution and meet both regional and local college education objectives."

The newsletter said the regional campuses are under the direction of regional principals, tasked with ensuring local programming "meets specific needs of a population or community."

In at least one community, education advocates say that isn't happening.

Last year's $2.8 million deficit meant cuts came to the Burns Lake campus. According to a September impact study, the campus is projected to experience a loss of 70 jobs, a 75 per cent cut to enrolment after "an enormous reduction in programming," and a loss of $3.7 million in employment revenues within the community by 2016/17. That report was prepared for the Lakes District Family Enhancement Society.

One regional principal manages Burns Lake, Fraser Lake, Vanderhoof, and Fort St. James.

The college offers programs in some of the north's larger communities - Prince George, Quesnel, Mackenzie, Burns Lake, Fort

St. James and Vanderhoof - but also provides services in smaller spots or aboriginal communities like Fraser Lake, Saik'uz and Cheslatta.

Mackenzie's principal is also leading the college's Digital Delivery Initiative, which the college said will help serve as many as 20 local communities with better programming through distance education using technology.

This will also allow instructors who are located at any of the CNC campuses to deliver instruction to students at other campuses.

"It allows us to take advantage of expertise that exists wherever the expertise sits," Reiser said in the student newsletter.

DDI is a key focus for the institution, which earned a pair of significant donations last year: In February Northern Gateway announced it would give $250,000 to help CNC develop the online course delivery program, which is expected to take three years to plan and implement the educational technology.

Then weeks later TransCanada matched that sum, also in support of DDI but with some funding directed toward bursaries for trades students and a region-wide safety training program.

Last year CNC had 3,571 full-time students, an uptick by more than 200 students from the year before, which saw 3,342 full-time equivalent (FTE) students.

Trades remain the college's most popular programs, with 1,385 full-time students.

It enjoyed an increase in international students with 334 students, compared to 290 the year before.

More than half of CNC's 8,879 students last year took continuing education classes. That total student number is down from the 9,605 who attended the institution the year before.

In 2013-14, it awarded 880 credentials, down from more than 1,000 for the previous two years, according to the Ministry of Advanced Education.

The college repeatedly reports far below its full-time student targets submitted to the Ministry of Advanced Education, which don't include students funded under the Industry Training Authority and apprenticeship programs.

Last year, it had 1,871 students, down from 2,022 the year before, when the provincial target is set at more than 3,100 students.

CNC's 2014 Accountability Plan noted the provincial model of setting targets for student spaces "has been under discussion for many years and still needs to be reviewed, particularly for institutions with multiple rural and remote campuses.

"(Enrolment) targets remain too high to reasonably be met with existing core resources in a multi-campus environment serving many students facing personal, educational and geographic barriers."

The college has also seen a decrease in students taking its developmental programs, including College and Career Preparation (CCP) over the last few years.

"Historically many of these programs have been funded through third-party contracts, some of which have changed or have not been renewed," the 2014 accountability report said.

Last year, 344 students took development programs, a drop of one sixth of the students it saw the year before. The provincial target is 522.

The most recent decline in students is likely connected to the province's May 2015 decision to stop funding high school upgrade courses to graduated adults. Now CNC charges $533 for the previously free courses.

Last year, the college met or exceeded its goals to recruit international students for each of the last two years. It also met or exceeded its targets for performance measures, like student satisfaction with instruction, as well as involvement of local stakeholders in education.

Nearly 24 per cent of its domestic students identify as aboriginal, and CNC has also committed to developing an aboriginal strategic plan.

Preliminary enrolment numbers for the current year, reported in November to the board, were not included in the public package.

The five-year strategic plan is expected to be complete by mid-2016 and has a consultation period from Jan. 18 to Feb. 29.

That will include in-person "consultation circles" in Burns Lake, Fort St. James, Mackenzie, Prince George, Quesnel and Vanderhoof from Jan. 25 to Feb. 11.

The schedule has not yet been posted, but the college said it will be available at www.cnc.bc.ca/strategic-plan.

Those who wish to be involved can contact CNC at strategicplan@cnc.bc.ca or 250-561-5890.

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