Low cost education at risk

Colleges such as Northwest Community College in northwestern B.C. need a boost

  • Tue Oct 13th, 2015 2:00pm
  • News

COMMUNITY COLLEGES such as Northwest Community College are at risk of not being able to do what they can do best, which is to provide lower cost post-secondary courses leading to degrees, says the president of a provincial association of college instructors.

George Davison of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC said the model of students from smaller B.C. towns being able to stay at home and take the first two years of courses and then transfer to degree-granting institutions is threatened by budget cuts.

“To put barriers in at the ground level doesn’t appear to make much sense,” he said. “It’s a system that worked and we need to look at that model.”

And unlike universities where the emphasis of professors is on research, community college instructors spend most of their time in classrooms, Davison added.

“Class sizes are smaller and there’s a better connection between instructors and students. The beauty of it is that students get a very good education and obtain higher grade point averages,” he said. “But what we’re seeing now is less access,” Davison added.

He was also critical of a provincial government shift in how it finances adult basic education programs, considered the first step toward post-secondary courses and trades programs, at community colleges. This year the province replaced a system in which colleges received money directly for adult basic education so that there was no tuition to one where students need to apply for grants themselves to cover newly-introduced tuition fees.

“But when students see costs, they’re going to say they can’t afford it so they they’re not going,” said Davison.

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC speaks for 22 faculty associations or unions at mostly college-level institutions across the province. Northwest Community College instructors and others are represented by the Academic Workers’ Union which is also a local of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.