We have all heard Northwest Community College is in a deficit.
We do know that part of that deficit is a result of the failure of the provincial government to factor a cost of living increase into the base budget; thus we have lost purchasing power.
The provincial government has also failed to modify a funding formula to rural and northern colleges, which are not able to capitalize on economies of scale, easy access to goods and support services, and high population densities.
There is another culprit closer to home, I suspect. And that my be our own past college management and board of governors who let this deficit mount though, from my understanding, deficits aren’t allowed.
And now, in an effort to recuperate, a new management and a new board of governors seem to have adopted a utilitarian ethos of cutting off limbs to save the college body. I doubt if the amputations will truly save this body. I fear, however, that it will disfigure it beyond recognition.
We don’t know what research or analysis is being used to guide this administration’s decisions, however. We – many of us at the college in both support and faculty positions – have repeatedly asked for this research, so we can see for ourselves what is guiding the deep, arbitrary cuts.
That crucially important information has not been forthcoming. No one will provide us with that indisputable evidence.
More than one-third of the college’s deficit is being eliminated by gutting developmental education.
We can only suppose (we cannot know as we have not been given the evidence) that this is efficiency at work.
Effectiveness – now that’s a different story. Effectiveness gives an adult learner the evidence to believe that he or she is not ‘too stupid’ or ‘too old’ to learn new skills.
Effectiveness sees people who have been shut in to their homes in abusive relationships make new friends (both other learners as well as teachers) and understand they can make different choices in their lives.
Miracles happen in our classrooms. They are not efficient by traditional number-crunching methods of analysis.
By the time a learner is ready and able to go on to the university and professional programs in Business Administration and Nursing and Criminology and Social Work, they have most often already worked through many of their issues of unreliable child care, abusive relationships, poverty, lack of transportation, low self-esteem, funding boondoggles, unsupportive family relationships as well as gained a mastery of the specific subject content they need to carry on with their studies.
They have succeeded in those daunting and multiple challenges in our classrooms.
And those learners who do not go on to post-secondary programs have improved their quality of life in some measure – not the measure used by the current provincial government or Northwest Community College’s current upper management, but by a higher, more authoritative measure of success – their own experiences of self-worth and effectiveness in their own lives and with their families and in their jobs and in their communities.
Fewer than half of the population of learners in development education programs will be served this coming academic year.
Those in small and more remote communities will essentially be denied any access at all.
We will deny a significant proportion of our region’s own citizens one important avenue to escape marginalization and to more fully participate in, and contribute to, our region’s health, prosperity and improved quality of life.
I grieve for those folks who would have been our future learners who now have been shut out by the college’s short sighted and counterproductive decisions. What a needless and terrible shame.
(Judy McCloskey is an instructor at the community college.)