College of the North Atlantic says program decisions based on demand

Gary Kean
Published on May 15, 2014

Marvin Zilling is about to graduate from high school and is eager to expand on the knowledge and skills he has gained so far in life.

The 18-year-old Level 3 student at Pasadena Academy is concerned, though, that he may have to take a year off from pursuing his post-secondary education.

Zilling’s plan was to study the electronics engineering program offered by the College of the North Atlantic.

The program was one of three offerings cut at the school’s Corner Brook campus after last year’s provincial budget, but is still offered in St. John’s.

Zilling had applied to the program in St. John’s last November. He later realized he could still do the first year of the program at Corner Brook, so he decided to see if he could do that.

In order to do so, Zilling was told he would have to transfer his application and effectively forego his spot on the wait list for St. John’s. He said he was in a better position to get accepted in St. John’s and is now worried he won’t get in at either campus.

“I was on a good spot on the wait list for St. John’s,” he said. “I would have gotten in. I know that. Now I don’t think I will.”

The College of the North Atlantic said program acceptance letters for all programs at the Corner Brook campus have already been sent out to the successful applicants. Ann Marie Vaughn, the college’s president, said there is a waiting period to see if those initially accepted do intend to follow through with the course of study.

If anyone indicates they won’t be doing the course, the college then goes to its wait list. If there are vacancies for a certain program at one campus and wait lists for the same program offered at another location, those on the wait list will be offered seats in the campus with availability.

Gerry Byrne, the Liberal Commons member for Humber-S. Barbe-Baie Verte, said his office has received numerous calls from students saying they have not yet been notified about acceptance into certain programs at the college. Byrne went so far as to say the school seems to be delaying notifications so enrollment drops and programs can possibly be put on the chopping block like others have.

“Students who have applied and have not heard anything back from the school yet are likely now making plans to do something else,” said Byrne. “If enrollment drops, then that could be evidence a program is no longer meeting the intake requirements and the College of the North Atlantic can show there is no longer interest in the program.”

Byrne called it “a manufactured circumstance” if the college is “inducing low enrollment.”

Vaughn said that is absolutely false.

“We are trying to maximize the number of seats and respond to student demand,” said Vaughn.

In fact, the college has retained faculty members for the three programs cut at Corner Brook — adventure tourism, electrical engineering and environmental technology. Vaughn said they are actually “excellent programs” and has tasked faculty members with finding ways to redesign these offerings in ways that better meet labour market demands and student interest levels.

“They have done some stellar work in the last year in talking to industry ... and doing competitive analysis across the country as to what these programs look like elsewhere,” said Vaughn.

She said it is possible these courses could be reinstated in Corner Brook for the fall of 2015, should a way be found to revamp them. She said it would take a year to develop the new offerings and to market them.

Last week, the college began laying off positions affected by the cuts announced last year. Some layoffs were delayed as the college continued to finish the courses that have been cut.

Vaughn said there was one permanent layoff of a teaching-related position in Corner Brook and two positions related to assisting in student intake that saw reduced working hours.

There were five positions affected in Bay St. George by the cuts. Vaughn emphasized the community studies and business administration programs at the campus were continuing to accept students, but have reduced staff because of low enrollment.

Although some programs have been cut, Vaughn said there are new offerings being made and on the horizon. There has been a significant demand for a power engineering course at the Corner Brook campus and Vaughn said the college is looking at extra sections for that program.

The same can be said of the commercial driving program at Bay St. George, she added.

“In the next week or so, you will see a series of announcements of extra sections we are going to be putting on,” said Vaughn.

As for Marvin Zilling, his post-secondary education is still left in limbo.

“I will re-apply right away for next year and take a year off school to work with my dad,” Zilling said of his plans if he doesn’t get into the College of the North Atlantic this fall.

“I don’t want to. I really want to take the fresh knowledge I have from high school and take it straight to (post-secondary).”