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Budget pressures were evident back in the fall of 2011, when staff members were informed the College would be accepting applications for early retirement or voluntary termination. Overall, 12 staff members chose to leave, and further positions have been eliminated as well as staff layoffs.

NLC says its financial pressures totalled $1.9 million this year, and included regular staff salary increases, a 1.5 per cent employee benefit cost increase, but most importantly, a nine per cent increase in utility costs. Laurie Rancourt, President and CEO of NLC, says it’s always difficult to make cuts, especially when it’s to staffing levels.

“Cost of living increases continue to happen year over year and regular increases, so it does become difficult to cut and balance budgets in a fiscal reality and still maintain levels of programs and services.”

In order to not face a deficit, in addition to staff cuts, campus residence fees have increased to be closer to provincial averages, domestic tuition rates have increased two per cent, and the Geomatics Engineering Technology program has been cancelled due to low enrolment. Rancourt says NLC is not alone in facing these financial pressures, and that increased costs are affecting schools province-wide.

“It is something that’s being felt across the province; this isn’t unique to Northern Lights College. There’s been other colleges and post-secondary institutions going through similar pressures and having to make similar difficult decisions.”

Although the budget is now balanced, there are still concerns about the provincial budget and possible cuts for the next fiscal year. However, Rancourt believes that the College is still well positioned to work with the community, industry and its partners and will be seeking alternative sources of funding to avoid a similar situation next year.

“At least we know that the province has talked about potential cuts, we’ll definitely be, on an ongoing basis, looking to make sure we’re as efficient as possible, and where we see opportunities to be more efficient or to reduce costs, while maintaining needed programs and services, we’ll definitely take those opportunities.”

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