College faculty working to revise spared dental program

It's been a whirlwind week for the dental faculty at the College of New Caledonia who have been hard at work making small revisions to the dental assisting program after learning it could be saved.

Faculty learned the good news at last Friday's Board of Governors meeting and by this Thursday had finalized the requested changes, making the one-year program slightly shorter.

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"The dental assisting faculty were awesome," said dental program founder Carole Whitmer of the week's work. "They're integrating some of the practicum earlier in the year which ultimately is going to make the program a wee little bit shorter."

The program will now run for 37 weeks, compared to 38 weeks this year, which had an already shortened semester due to the Canada Winter Games.

And, instead of having their practicum in blocks at the end of February and May, the students will have clinic sessions once a week.

The relatively small changes should mean course costs will only increase by two per cent - the government mandated maximum for tuition.

It will go before the college's education council on May 12 for approval.

"We do not anticipate any problems with it," she said.

It also means the three dental assisting faculty should keep their jobs alongside at least one operational staff.

The board heard Friday dental assisting wouldn't be suspended thanks to behind the scenes work with the Ministry of Advanced Education. The two-year dental hygiene program, however, is still up in the air - and two of its instructors are still laid off.

The board has said it hopes to accept intakes again in September 2016, and Whitmer is hopeful they can make it happen.

"I know the board understands how important both programs are," Whitmer said. "In reality it doesn't make sense to have a 20 chair clinic open for one class of dental assisting students."

To get there, they will likely have to increase clinic user fees and increase tuition.

"We're looking at a different curriculum model. In order to increase tuition fee there has to be substantial change," she said of dental hygiene, adding discussions have already started with the dean and she hopes it is included in the 2016 - 2021 strategic plan the college will start on in the fall.

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