NWCC adult education programs sees lower attendance

Northwest Community College's Houston campus has seen a reduction in students applying for its adult upgrading courses.

Northwest Community College’s Houston campus has seen a reduction in students applying for its adult upgrading courses.

This comes after last January’s decision by the provincial government to pull funding from colleges. In NWCC’s case, students looking to attend courses that go towards fulfilling high school graduation or GED requirements, have to start paying out of pocket.

“It’s affecting the adult basic education, what we call Career & College Prep,” said regional director Regina Saimoto. “In the past, Career & College Prep was exempt from tuition, and now we are charging for the courses.”

Students now have to pay according to their course-load.

“Starting in September, the charge will be based on whether you attend in different categories,” she said.

Students could attend school at 1/8 full-time all the way to full-time, and the fees goes up by hourly increments.

In a press release, the provincial government justifies this change in subsidy as a means to ensure “adult students who have the means to do so are expected to contribute to the cost of the upgrading needed for further studies and entry into the workforce.”

The change in funding model has forced the NWCC to start charging fees, according to Saimoto.

“With a change in funding they gave post-secondary institution an option to charge tuition but in reality for us to be able to recover the cost of providing upgrading, we have to charge now, because we are not getting the same level of funding,” she said.

The province is offering Adult Upgrading Grants with an income ceiling that changes based on the number of family members. A single person qualifies if he or she earns $23,647, while a family with seven or more has it capped at $62,581.

“But for people that don’t qualify, we are doing fundraising activities,” said Saimoto. “Our second annual golf tournament on May 18 and those fundraising activities are utilized to help establish an endowment for bursaries and scholarships.”

On the ground, NWCC’s Houston spokesperson Mark West wants to dispel any notion that the Houston campus has become empty as a result.

“We have some stuff going on,” he said. “In classrooms, we have programs, then the program finishes then it appears like we’re empty until we wait for the next program.”

“I wouldn’t say it’s completely dead, but we do need to find more programming.”