Northlands College to take over northern education, province says

Throne speech suggests math overhaul for Saskatchewan

Northlands College will be handling higher education in the Saskatchewan's northern communities, the provincial government announced on Wednesday.

Northlands College already delivers education in Creighton, Buffalo Narrows and Île-á-la-Crosse, and will take over providing education in place of the Northern Teachers Education Program in La Ronge.

Funding for NORTEP and the Northern Professional Access College will stop in July, as announced last August. 

Bronwyn Eyre, minister of advanced education, said the only thing which will change with the switch to Northlands College will be the brokering and offering of post-secondary programs. 

"The intention always was that we would see those students through," she said.

Eyre said the college was chosen because of its history and the fact that staff, schooling and programs are already on the ground in the north. 

Eyre said Northlands College offers a mix of in-class instruction and video conferencing, which she says expands accessibility. 

Further discussion will be needed with the college to determine the funding they require, she said. 

Opposition NDP MLA Ryan Meili said there has been no justification for the move.

"One has to think that this is about cutting funds," Meili said, adding the government signed a five-year agreement prior to re-election and then reneged on their promise. 

The change in administration to a southern-appointed board from a locally operated organization concerns Meili. 

"That takes away control from the north."

Not fully understood

The decision doesn't sit quite right with NORTEP graduate April Chiefcalf, who feels the concerns of northern residents are falling on deaf ears. 

"I think we've had so many ongoing issues in the north, people are at a breaking point up here," Chiefcalf said.

Chiefcalf describes herself as a newcomer to the north, having lived in the area for only 15 and a half years, but she wonders if people who don't live in the north truly understand the social issues of the area.

"It just seems like people from the south think that they know what's best for the north," she said. "To me, it's very disrespectful."

Chiefcalf feels the success rates of the NORTEP program weren't fully taken into consideration by the government when the decision was made. 

According to a NORTEP fact sheet, 94 per cent of graduates of the program are employed in the north and 92 per cent of those employees are teaching or are in teaching-related positions.

Calls to NORTEP/NORPAC acting president Jennifer Malmsten for comment were not returned on Wednesday.