Lakeland College suspends programs

Lakeland College has suspended five programs and reduced expenses following funding cuts from the provincial government.

The college said the programs that have been suspended were carefully reviewed. The board decided they weren’t providing a bang for their buck.

“Lakeland must focus its resources on programming areas where student demand and the labour market align, and on research initiatives that advance innovation-based rural economic development,” said Alice Wainwright-Stewart, Lakeland’s president and chief executive officer.

The programs being suspended include gasfitter Class A, steamfitter-pipefitter, instrumentation and control technician, pre-employment instrumentation and control technician, and street rod technologies.

Wainwright-Stewart said student enrollment had been declining in these programs. It was costing the college more to operate them.

No new students will be accepted to these programs for September 2020. Street rod technologies is offered near Lloydminster and the other programs are offered at the Vermilion campus.

“Our decision to suspend these programs is not a reflection of the value they bring to our region,” Wainwright-Stewart said.

“We explored various options and gave careful consideration to factors such as enrollment trends, labour-market needs and program costs before deciding to suspend these programs,” she said.

The decision comes after the province cut funding to most post-secondary schools.

Lakeland saw a reduction of $2.5 million and Olds College received a cut of $663,000. The funds come through the campus grant program.

Lakeland also saw a $2.1 million shortfall in funding for its Infrastructure Maintenance Program.

The government has previously argued the cuts were necessary to get its fiscal house in order.

Wainwright-Stewart said about 35 to 55 positions at the school are being eliminated. It has also offered a voluntary retirement incentive program to employees.

Lakeland is increasing tuition by seven percent, which amounts to an additional $350 per year on average, said Wainwright-Stewart.

Olds College has temporarily laid off or reduced the hours of 100 employees. The college said the measure was in response to financial impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As well, Olds is finalizing its 2020-21 budget. Once complete, it will have a better understanding of impacts to students and faculty.

Wainwright-Stewart said Lakeland will continue to assess programming based on the needs of students and employers.

“What we found is things are cyclical,” she said.

Addressing the suspended programs, Lakeland will offer six other apprenticeship technical training programs, as well as two pre-employment programs at the Vermilion campus in 2020-21.

As well, components of street rod technologies will be offered through weekend vehicle restoration workshops.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also created other issues for Lakeland.

Wainwright-Stewart said the college doesn’t yet know how many students will return. Revenue would be lower if fewer students return.

As well, the college focusses on hands-on learning. It’s figuring out how it can offer that learning environment if physical distancing is still in effect, she said.

“We have some very good institutions across Alberta, and Alberta is lucky to have this many wonderful institutions that meets the needs of training Albertans so they can compete in the world,” Wainwright-Stewart said.

“We are cognizant our money comes from taxpayers, so we need to make sure we are doing our part to ensure taxpayers get the best bang for their buck.”

Contact jeremy.simes@producer.com

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