Selkirk College in Castlegar will no longer be offering second year university sciences as the school prepares to meet a million dollar budget shortfall.
“We need to have approval in principle by our board by the end of this month,” said Barry Auliffe, Selkirk College director of communications. “It gets final approval by our board and then by the government in May.”
The amount of funding received from the provincial government for college operations at Selkirk has remained the same for the coming year and will be reduced over the next two years.
“Right away, with the cost of doing business going up with inflation, we’re in a $500,000 shortfall situation just at the get-go,” said Auliffe. “We will be again next year. The operating grant will be decreased next year. This year the government came to us and asked us to make additional savings. So that put it up to $1 million.”
In order to balance the budget the college must find ways to save money. Selkirk receives the lion’s share of their total operating budget of $36 from the government ($26 million). The remainder comes from projections such as tuition fees.
“We find everything we can in the administrative area, anything that we can cut that doesn’t immediately impact students, particularly the cutting of programs,” said Auliffe. “The size, $1 million, is just too much. The vast majority of our budget is in the programs. What we do is look at those programs that have been trending down in terms of enrolment numbers. One area that has trended down over the last few years is second year sciences, courses like biology, chemistry. The numbers there were just not sufficient to continue running those courses.”
Auliffe noted that in 1966 when Selkirk College opened, there were only three degree granting universities in B.C. “We now have 12 degree granting universities throughout the province and they’re all very competitive,” he said. “What’s happening a lot more is that students will take their first year at a community college because you have great instruction, much cheaper tuition, you’re closer to home, and you get a sense of whether you really want to follow that through.
“In second year if you do, there is more of a tendency – there are so many options closer to home – you can go to UBC-O (in Kelowna) or TRU (Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops). So that’s really cut into our second year numbers. That was a natural place to look.”
Cutting the second year university sciences will also open up money for other more popular courses such as carpentry, metal fabrication, pharmacy technician, and early childhood care assistant, said Auliffe.
Other courses affected by the budget changes include the two year diploma program at the Kootenay School of the Arts, which will now be offered as a one-year program.
In addition, the online golf club operations course will only be offered if enrolments are sufficient to cover all costs.