Community college layoffs reflect lack of commitment to northern economy
VANCOUVER, Feb. 2, 2012 /CNW/ - With an unemployment rate in northern
B.C. sitting at 11.5 per cent and layoffs looming at northern colleges,
the B.C. government's vaunted BC Jobs Plan is failing northern
communities, unions representing post secondary workers said today.
The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) and the
Federation of Post Secondary Educators (FPSE) blame declining post
secondary funding and restrictive accounting practices for budget
deficits at two northern colleges. Dozens of faculty and support staff
have been given layoff notices or Section 54 notices that layoffs will
occur. Educational services to local aboriginal communities may also be
affected by the service cuts.
"Education is one of the most effective economic investments we can make
in rural communities, but the B.C. government has failed to make post
secondary education a priority," says BCGEU president Darryl Walker.
"It looks like the government's BC Jobs Plan has bypassed northern
Walker noted that per student post secondary funding in B.C. is now 15
per cent below 2001 levels. At the same time, new budget rules prevent
post secondary institutions from using past surpluses to cover
short-term deficits. Northwest Community College has an accumulated
surplus of about $2 million, but can't use the funds to offset a
projected $1.7 million deficit. Northern Lights College also faces a
deficit of about $1.6 million for the coming year.
"Northern communities rely on the jobs and economic activity that our
post secondary institutions generate for the economy," says FPSE
president Cindy Oliver. "Every dollar invested in post secondary
education is multiplied many times over in economic benefits to local
An economic impact study prepared for Northwest Community College shows
that the local economy realizes a $4 return for every dollar of
taxpayer financial support to the college. Students see annual incomes
increase by $109 per year for every credit completed, and the B.C.
government saves social costs amounting to over $767,000 a year.
"Underfunding education and deregulating tuition fees has placed a huge
financial burden on our post secondary system and has made education
unaffordable for many students," says Walker. "It's time to reinvest in
our post secondary education system, to support local communities and
provide skilled workers to our economy."
"An educated workforce earns higher wages, pays more taxes and generates
greater economic activity for our society," says Oliver. "A quality,
affordable and accessible post secondary education system is a key
element in the success of any Jobs Plan for B.C."
Union representatives continue to meet with college management, staff
and instructors to mitigate the harm caused by these layoffs.
SOURCE B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union
For further information:
Chris Bradshaw (BCGEU) at 604-291-9611, or Phillip Legg (FPSE) at 604-873-8988