Northwest Community College plans to slash budget by $1.4 million

Most affected will be the college's university credit courses and its Smithers campus

Northwest Community College has announced spending cuts of $1.4 million

Northwest Community College has announced spending cuts of $1.4 million, primarily affecting its university course credit program.

While no university credit programs will be cancelled outright, where and how courses will be taught is to change, said college communications director Sarah Zimmerman.

“With under-enrolled courses, we looked at timetables so that instead, for example, of being offered several times it will be offered once,” she said.

Smithers is to be affected the most as students there wishing to take university credit courses will now have to do so via teleconferencing or other electronic means.

And fewer course times means fewer instructors and others will be needed, Zimmerman said.

“We’ve been working with our unions offering early retirement and severance packages,” she added.

The more college employees take up retirement or severance packages the fewer actual job losses there will be, said Zimmerman.

Some instructors are also being told they’ll be teaching less.

Zimmerman said the college’s shortfall stems from receiving less money from the province and less tuition money because student enrolment has dropped.

“And as a college, we are obligated to submit a balanced budget,” she said.

One large financial loss comes from the province cutting a grant worth $494,000 to provide tuition-free adult basic education courses.

The college will now start charging the same level of tuition for adult basic education that it does for university level academic courses but students can also now apply to the province for financial assistance.

The level of assistance will depend on a student’s income.

“We don’t know what the impact of charging tuition will be or the uptake of financial aid,” said Zimmerman, adding that the college estimates the new fees will bring in $75,000.

Despite the spending cuts and a compressed academic program offering, Zimmerman said the college remains a viable educational institution.

“We continue to have robust programs. There is demand for what we offer – trades, fine arts, health and business programs,” she said.