Students rally over program cuts

Andrew Robinson
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Large crowds gather for simultaneous protests at 15 campuses

Hundreds of people including students, politicians and labour leaders showed up for a rally against government cuts at the College of the North Atlantic, Prince Philip Drive campus in St. John’s Wednesday.  — Photo By Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

A frenzied crowd in St. John’s chanted angrily and applauded loudly for speaker after

speaker who stood up to denounce provincial government budget cuts to the College of the North Atlantic (CNA) that have affected multiple programs.

Similar protests took place over the lunch hour Wednesday at CNA campuses across Newfoundland and Labrador.

“I’ve seen the photos of the protests happening right now … right across the province in 15 communities,” said Michael Walsh, provincial chairman for the Canadian Federation of Students, “and I know that we are sending a clear message to government. Funding for College of the North Atlantic, for affordable, high-quality education, has to be a priority, and the people of this province will accept nothing less.”

Amongst the more prominent programs eliminated from CNA was the adult basic education (ABE) program. Private institutions and community organizations will be tasked with taking over the service. The Department of Advanced Education and Skills has said the move was made in an attempt to bring costs for government on a per person basis down to a comparable level with that of other provinces.


Walsh said that is the wrong way to handle ABE services. He said education is a right and that ABE should not be used to line the pocketbooks of private enterprise.

“Nobody could have anticipated the privatization of one of our college’s most cherished programs. Without consultation, without any planning, it was announced on budget day that ABE would be ripped from its proper place at our college and sold to the lowest bidder.”


Student’s perspective

Meaghan Smith, an ABE student at CNA’s Seal Cove campus, worries how those who need the service in rural areas will manage.

“Once privatized, what are ABE students in more remote parts of the province going to do? Pack up and hope to get into a private college in an urban centre? This isn’t good enough.”

Smith said CNA is the best-equipped institution in the province to offer ABE, given it has campuses across the province that can reach people in those remote areas. As private institutions in the province have been known to close their doors and leave students in the lurch, Smith says, she worries it could happen again to ABE students.

She also questioned the notion that students will not be affected financially by the move given their studies are funded through employment insurance.

“I, for one, am not funded,” she said. Smith said the cost of school for her at a private college is beyond her financial means, given she currently works a minimum-wage job to support her education.

“I’m working a minimum wage job to better my chances at finding a good-paying job in our robust economy, and now my second chance is under threat from this government. These cuts surely weren’t in the youth-retention strategy. We’re all left trying to figure out what will happen next.”

Referencing the Department of Justice’s plan to review cuts it made to the court system in the most recent budget, Smith suggested Advanced Education and Skills should do that same with cuts to the college.


Lost jobs

A reported 149 jobs at the college were affected by the cuts in programs such as first-year engineering technology, visual arts, and comprehensive arts and sciences, amongst others. A total of 25 programs at 16 campuses were affected, not including ABE.

Union leader Carol Furlong from the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees said that given the provincial government is planning to conduct an efficiency review looking at post-secondary institutions, it is likely more cuts to public education are on the horizon.

“They announced in their budget that there will be a comprehensive review of the college next year,” said Furlong. “We believe this would provide opportunity for consultation with the stakeholders. It is clear there are more cuts to come. Based on their track record, it is unlikely they are going to consult with employees and students. We were taken off guard to learn cuts were already underway and privatization was in the works.”

Memorial University student Nick Wells attended the protest to voice his concerns at what might be in store for his school as a result of that review. A classics student at MUN, he worries programs like his could be cut.

“I feel like if (CNA) is losing their courses, we could lose our courses,” he said. “Might as well show our support. It’s the same struggle, so you’ve got to get out there.”

 Maruf Ruhul, an international student studying business at MUN, said it was the low tuition rates that attracted him to the school. He worries an efficiency review could put an end to the longstanding tuition freeze.

“I’m thinking about having my younger brother coming here to study at MUN, and if they increase the tuition, it will be impossible for us to afford the education that we would want to have.”

Kristie LePatourel, president of the Ridge Road campus student council of CNA, said Wednesday’s protests were held to make sure people in Newfoundland and Labrador can continue to obtain the skills necessary to contribute to the economy.

“It’s about ensuring hard-working Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have access to high-quality adult basic education,” she said. “It’s about sending a message to the government that we will not stand for cuts to our college.”

Twitter: @TeleAndrew


Organizations: CNA, Canadian Federation of Students, Department of Advanced Education and Skills MUN Employment Insurance Department of Justice Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees Ridge Road campus student council

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Seal Cove

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Recent comments

  • darren
    April 11, 2013 - 12:34

    For Pete's sake ABE students, put your teeth in and put down the smokes down when the camera is on ya.

  • Jack
    April 11, 2013 - 12:19

    @Wild Rose....It's unfortunate that you didn't take advantage of more schooling in the past.You may have actually learned to spell and write proper English grammar.Go back to the wood shed and leave this discussion to the educated adults.

    • Wild Rose
      April 11, 2013 - 13:32

      I'll have you know that I do very well without all those elitist liberal university professors. I make over $160,000 beacuse i'm not afraid to work also I have a right to speak up. If the hippy / welfarfe crowd like you has a right so do I. I also believe in the rule of law and respect. If these people want to learn they can do it on there own dime not from my taxes.

  • Which "correct path" is that?
    April 11, 2013 - 12:00

    No one seems able to shed light on this "correct" path." I researched, learned my own mind, obtained a four year degree, then a three year trades certificate. All I've ever tried to do was meet the demands of industry and location, match myself to a suitable education. Three provinces later, here in the one waving it's arms most frantically over labour shortage and the career position I had secured has been handed to someone with a few months of seniority - could have been weeks, minutes even, and the outcome would have been the same. It sure doesn't seem to me like the volume of job opportunities or "the right path" are the only blockades to building a life here. Entitlement, simultaneous demand/contempt for learning and some therefore...medieval...hiring/retention processes seem to factor in too.

  • Wild Rose
    April 11, 2013 - 11:21

    I agree with Ed. Get a life loosers! The RNC should crack down on these malcontents litterelly. Arrest the ring leaders and the rest will run like cickens!

    • Juanita
      April 11, 2013 - 21:24

      Anyone who calls someone else a looser because they are trying to better themselves because they couldn't finish school due to illness; can't have anything better to do with their time and believe they are above so wove else! Shame on you!!

  • Dunderhead
    April 11, 2013 - 10:38

    The premier always compares us to other provinces like New Brunswick and how much they pay per head. Its apples and oranges to even suggest it. We live here and aren't land locked with other provinces. To simply say that is to ignore what students in the province are faced with. To use our geographics is absurd way to do nothing instead of actually showing some leadership. This is the traditional tory style of passing the buck. Maybe the premier herself could use one of the courses offered to enlighten her on such matters.

  • In The Hasseloff
    April 11, 2013 - 10:24

    I not only worry about students in Newfoundland and Labrador, but how are the students in Qatar handling these cuts? What were our connections and Why were over there away?

  • Ed
    April 11, 2013 - 09:53

    Get a life. We have close to the lest expensive secondary education in Canada, someone has to pay and the Newfoundland taxpayers are contributing enough for your education. The $30,000 to $50,000 you might owe after graduating is cheap considering the job opportunities you have available - if you carefilly selected your courses. After you graduate you will probably spend that much on a new car and be happy with your purchase.

  • Bob's Your Uncle
    April 11, 2013 - 09:51

    When are we going to step up and let this government know that we do not accept their gross mismanagement of the public purse? It is obvious that this government has lined it's pockets and is now taking it out on the backs of the most vunerable, seniors, students, public servvants and even our justice department who we all know deserve more funding not less.

  • John
    April 11, 2013 - 08:40

    Let's not forget that there were also drastic cuts to the support staff at the various CONA locations.These support staff are providing very important functions and many are out the door within the next few weeks with nothing.People seem to be only focusing on the cut courses and instructors, but many other people are involved in this ridiculous layoff scam.

  • Yadap
    April 11, 2013 - 08:21

    Kathy Dunderdale have thrown missile on the future of students.She doesn't know the importance education. We have to prostest reqularly .

  • Christopher Chafe
    April 11, 2013 - 07:35

    It's high time that both the university and College do a complete review of courses offered. After reading this article I am reminded of a young lady from Ottawa who was interviewed on Canada AM the morning of the Federal Budget. She was complaining about how little the government was doing to assist young people in getting well paying jobs across Canada. Perhaps she should have thought that a Masters in Midevil Studies would not be the correct path to take when she was going to University.

  • Fred Penner
    April 11, 2013 - 06:30

    If you can't get a student loan to do the ABE course then perhaps the student loan program can be expanded to accommodate your needs.