Houston council hopes that the district can have a college campus again.
Council will soon ask the provincial government for support in reopening Coast Mountain College’s Houston campus – previously known as Northwest Community College – or, if that’s not a possibility, for support in attracting another post-secondary institution.
“The District of Houston would be interested in exploring alternatives if Coast Mountain College has no plans to reopen its Houston Campus,” states a District of Houston staff report.
Coast Mountain College closed its Houston campus in 2017, citing low student enrolment. But according to district staff, many of the contributing factors to declining enrolment were avoidable.
These include providing training that addresses Houston’s labour force needs and accommodating the schedules of full-time workers. District staff say transportation was also a contributing factor.
“Transportation is not accessible or consistent to support accessing opportunities in other communities, meaning that to obtain training, residents have to move away to other communities to advance their education.”
According to the district report, each public transit system in Northern B.C. has “significant drawbacks,” which make it difficult for users to utilize the systems in place.
The Houston population is expected to grow by about 1.5 per cent by the year 2033, according to Houston’s Transportation Master Plan, which was recently adopted by council.
“With the reintroduction of free adult based education and new tuition exceptions for former foster children, and the need for skills training to support the local labour force accessing new industrial job, Houston needs access to post-secondary training opportunities.”
According to Sarah Zimmerman, a spokesperson for Coast Mountain College, the college is not considering reopening the Houston campus.
“It was closed in 2017 due to a dramatic reduction of students in the Houston area,” she told Houston Today. “It was no longer economically viable to maintain staff and public hours at that location.”
When asked what would need to change in order for the Houston campus to reopen, Zimmerman said “a very dramatic increase in students and demand for programming that would sustain the cost of staffing and public hours.”
She added that Coast Mountain College continues to provide trades training programming in Houston in partnership with School District 54, and has mobile training infrastructure to support the current programming needs in Houston.
“Since the Houston Learning Centre closed its doors, Coast Mountain College has offered the Millwright Foundations program and Youth Trades Sampler program with Electrical Foundations scheduled for this winter, so programming is continuing in that community.”
Houston council will discuss this topic with B.C. Premier John Horgan and Minister of Advanced Education Melanie Mark at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, which will be held in Whistler from Sept. 10-14, 2018.