N.W.T.'s Aurora College pauses plan to become a polytechnic university

Aurora College in Yellowknife says it's pausing its plans to become a polytechnic university.  (Walter Strong/CBC - image credit)
Aurora College in Yellowknife says it's pausing its plans to become a polytechnic university. (Walter Strong/CBC - image credit)

The N.W.T.'s Aurora College says its funding is on the edge, and the planned transition to a polytechnic university is being delayed.

The transition was supposed to be complete by May 2025.

"I think it wasn't funded appropriately from the beginning and that's where we sit today," said Glenda Vardy Dell, the college's outgoing president.

Dell said about 60 per cent of the college's funding comes from third parties. It's received $8 million from Crown–Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada for the project and continued to receive a bit more than $1 million annually from the N.W.T. government.

"How do you define how much money you need to develop high quality programming? That in itself is a question you have to sit down and look at the details for," Dell said.

Dell said the other funding the college receives comes from research money, which isn't consistent.

"If they can't renew the funding, they have to stop the programming," Dell said.

Joseph Handley, chair of the college's board of governors, said the college struggles with student enrolment and finding housing for students.

"We don't have the money to do the accreditation process, which is very cumbersome," he said.

Handley said he hasn't exactly figured out how much more money is needed to finish the transition, but said they're committed to trying to move toward a polytechnic.

"It's a tough question for the board. Is it the right time? I don't know. We certainly have challenges in front of us right now," Handley said.

Dell said they've put proposals forward for grant writers and now have a full-time grant proposal writer.

"We can't do that off the side of our desk. We need to have dedicated people doing that," she said.

Handley said in the first few months of his tenure as board chair, he told then-Education Minister R.J. Simpson that "this is looking pretty thin."

"We did have a discussion … we may have to set this back a year," he said.

Dell said she couldn't put a date on when the transition would happen.

"Regardless of whether we become a polytechnic or not, we will become a better college and be able to provide programming if we do things in the right sequence and we take the time and find the dollars to do it correctly."