DEVELOPMENT ISSUES AND
1. Building Enrolment
Our major challenge continues to be building institutional enrolment. We have been able to increase the drawing power of our institution by expanding the number and mix of programs available, e.g., a collaborative degree with SFU as well as Aboriginal Early Childhood Education in 2002, Information Technology in 2003, and Law Enforcement Preparation for 2004. By making existing funds go further and through collaboration with other institutions and organizations (such as SFU, Cisco Systems, and the RCMP) we have been able to introduce additional programming.
We expect to be able to continue that approach for one or two more years by utilizing our institutional financial reserves. After that, if additional funding is not made available and/or generated, we will be forced to reduce our range of programs, losing what we have built up. We anticipate the increase in the number and type of programs will not only increase our student numbers because of those additions, but that these program additions will increase the overall drawing power of the institution and increase enrolment in existing programs.
But building enrolment is more than just a matter of implementing additional programs. While they are a critical factor, an equal element and development challenge is building enrolment in existing programs through filling our unused capacity. This is a function of both attracting more students to fill vacant seats and of student retention, whether retention is in a program, or retention from ABE to a NVIT college-level program.
The institute’s goals and objectives contained in this service plan will reflect steps to accelerate institutional growth beyond that specified by the Ministry.
2. From Provincial Institute to Special Purpose University?
Currently NVIT has collaboration arrangements with two institutions for the delivery of degree programs at its Merritt campus. A Social Work degree is delivered in collaboration with University College of the Cariboo and a General Studies degree in Aboriginal Community Economic Development is delivered in collaboration with Simon Fraser University. Discussions are underway with Simon Fraser for expansion of their NVIT-based degree programming in 2004. We also plan to pursue degree collaboration in Aboriginal health with a university or university-college once we have implemented our new Aboriginal Community & Health Development diploma program in 2005.
This leads to an institutional planning and development question for the future. Should the institute continue on its current development path as a provincial institute, or should it consider an alternate scenario that sees the institution become a British Columbia special purpose university, one with an Aboriginal post-secondary education mandate, e.g., Aboriginal University of British Columbia or Nicola Valley University? Exploration of this question will be addressed during 2004-2005.
3. Student Access
Another major issue is providing meaningful access for students to our programming. Four key challenges related to this are community-level access, the educational backgrounds of students, relevant support for students, and education funds available to Bands.
a) Community-level access
As reported above, the Registered Indian on-reserve projected population increase between 1998 and 2008 is 30.4%. This compares to an off-reserve projection of 4.5%. This, in conjunction with the fact that a far larger proportion of Aboriginal former students (29%) attending colleges and institutes had to relocate from their home community than non-Aboriginal former students (19%), suggests the need for increased attention to finding ways in which community-level access to NVIT programs can be supported.
b) High % of Aboriginal Population with Less than High School
This is an access issue because those with less than high school face major limitations in accessing post-secondary education and training, let alone employment opportunities. This suggests the need for NVIT to establish accessible routes to high school completion or equivalency on and off campus that in turn link to our post-secondary programs.
c) Relevant Student Support
The high proportion of Aboriginal students leaving high school without completion of Grade 12 (and/or without completion of English and Math 12), the high percentage of Aboriginal students having to interrupt their studies for financial reasons, Aboriginal students being more likely to be single parents, and their requests in mainstream institutions for more Aboriginal content, more support, and smaller classes are some of the arguments creating the need for seeking ways to provide Aboriginal students with enhanced levels of relevant support. A greater argument for student support mechanisms are the incidents of abuse and attempted suicide.
d) Band Education Funding
The education funding available to Bands, while not a provincial issue, is none-the-less an issue and a reality for an Aboriginal institution that has a student population that is 85% Aboriginal. Recent major increases in tuition levels across the province have started to have substantive negative impacts on the number of students Bands can fund for post-secondary education. Federal funding has not kept up with the increased costs of post-secondary education.
4. Attracting Qualified Aboriginal Faculty
In administrative and support staff functions the institution has been reasonably able to attract qualified Aboriginal candidates to available positions or develop them in the positions. This is reflected by recent figures that show only 23% and 17% respectively of exempt and support staff positions as being filled by non-Aboriginal employees. Conversely, the institution faces an on-going challenge in attracting qualified Aboriginal faculty. In the case of continuing appointment faculty positions 42% are filled by non-Aboriginal employees. It is simply a matter of there being a very small pool of qualified candidates available. This is exacerbated by the demand for them also increasing at other post-secondary institutions.
5. Aboriginal Unemployment
When it comes to measuring the unemployment rate of NVIT graduates it needs to be understood that comparing former student unemployment rates to the unemployment rates for persons with high school credentials only in the province (as per the Ministry’s baseline and performance target requirements) poses a challenge.
The approximately 200 Aboriginal communities in British Columbia are for the most part rural and economically under- or undeveloped. This issue becomes very clear when the provincial Aboriginal unemployment rate of 22.5% at the 2001 Census is compared to an overall provincial unemployment rate such as that during Fall 2003 when it stood at 8.5%.
Approximately 75% of NVIT’s students come from outside the Nicola Valley and most are from rural areas where they lived on reserve. Unemployment rates in the communities some of our students come from – and go back to – can exceed 30%! When our graduates go back to their communities they often face limited employment opportunities, but it is they who will help build the capacities in their communities to further the economic and social development that in turn will create increased employment opportunities in the future for those that follow.