Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

College of the North overreached

  • Print

University College of the North's decision to shut down some programs may reflect a straitened financial situation brought about by provincial policy that has capped or cut tuition and grant increases to post-secondary schools. Or it may be a symptom of a good idea derailed by growth that was too rapid for a new post-secondary institution trying too hard.

Enlarge Image

(DALE CUMMINGS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

UCN was anointed in 2004 as the premiere educational option for northern Manitoba's aboriginal people, by an NDP government that believed a university that reflected the region's indigenous culture and economic needs was key to developing its potential.

So Keewatin Community College became UCN, which was bestowed degree-granting privileges by the province. It expanded its college programs and developed five university degree programs, offered at two campus sites and a variety of centres in smaller communities.

The new university-college model came with renovated and shiny new facilities. UCN had big dreams. It assumed the education degree program from Brandon University and enrolled students in a BSc of nursing, in conjunction with the University of Manitoba. Its BA program specializes in northern and aboriginal studies. But its midwifery program, which has yet to graduate a student, is accepting no new registrants while the faculty attempts to get it back on the rails, having moved it from the North to Winnipeg.

There have been a handful of university graduates, but the annual numbers are not impressive -- falloff in enrolment after the first year is high. The BA programs at Thompson and The Pas are popular, but saw only one and six (respectively) graduates last year. UCN had a total 137 students enrolled in the third or fourth year of a degree program, and 15 graduates (nursing grads are counted in U of M's statistics).

The expansion of UCN's college programs has been equally ambitious. The 29 programs it inherited from Keewatin Community College has grown to 40. Now a dozen will shut down.

The office of Advanced Education Minister Erin Selby says the courses are being closed for lack of enrolment, but a public letter from UCN president Konrad Jonasson outlined the moves as necessary to cut the institution's deficit, which in 2012 was more than $751,000 in its $41.6-million operating budget. Staff will be laid off as well.

UCN, as with other post-secondary schools this year, received only half the five per cent increase in government grants the NDP administration had promised this year. While that is painful for all institutions, UCN was particularly vulnerable because it is disproportionately dependent upon government grants to carry its operating budget.

Enlarge Image

(DALE CUMMINGS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

Other schools receive between 50 and 60 per cent of their revenues from public funding; government grants make up 80 per cent of UCN's revenues. Meanwhile, tuition and fees draw a mere 7.7 per cent of revenues, compared to more than 20 per cent at other schools.

Education of aboriginal people, and particularly those in remote northern communities, must be a priority in Manitoba. Intuitively, bringing school closer to home in a culturally relevant curriculum should improve chances of success. The North needs trained professionals and skilled labour willing to remain in the region. UCN's progress toward meeting the vision appears to have been fast-tracked to the detriment of the long-term goal, and for many of its students.

Ms. Selby needs to call an independent, external evaluation of UCN's programs and finances. Of particular concern is its ability to retain and to graduate its students. Manitobans can understand the fact UCN needs greater public funding than southern counterparts that are more established and draw from a large well of potential students. But it must be shown to be money well spent.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 8, 2013 A8

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Raw aerial video: Portage Diversion July 8 2014

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Goslings enjoy Fridays warm weather to soak up some sun and gobble some grass on Heckla Ave in Winnipeg Friday afternoon- See Bryksa’s 30 DAY goose challenge - May 18, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • STDUP ‚Äì Beautiful West End  begins it's summer of bloom with boulevard s, front yards  and even back lane gardens ,  coming alive with flowers , daisies and poppies  dress up a backyard lane on Camden St near Wolseley Ave  KEN GIGLIOTTI  / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS  /  June 26 2012

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

How do you feel about Germany beating Argentina to claim the World Cup?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google