With the NWT’s new budget, one of the more significant cuts is $1.9 million in funding to Aurora College, meaning that the college’s social work and Bachelor of Education programs are getting the chop.
According to Education Minister Alfred Moses, over the past three years Aurora’s social work program has seen 12 graduates, costing the government about $112,000 a head.
In total, 34 students are enrolled in the two-year program this year.
“When we have low enrollment rates, low graduation rates, but we still have a full staff, those are decisions that we have to look at, how we spend our dollars more efficiently, the taxpayer dollars,” Moses said Monday.
But for first-year social work student Maxine Lacorne, she thinks the government should have better consulted with the college before making those kinds of cutbacks.
“I don’t think my future, my livelihood or my career goals should be decided on stats and enrollments and completion,” Lacorne said. “NWT residents are going to be affected by this decision.”
Lacorne and several other students from the college are planning to protest the program cuts at the legislative assembly Thursday.
They say they are going to march from the college at 12:30 p.m.
They’ll make their way through downtown to the legislative assembly, where several students plan to sit in the house while it’s in session to make their opposition to the cuts known.
‘Why did I even go back to school now?’
The loss of the social work program isn’t just a blow to the college. As it stands, there are no other social work programs offered in the NWT.
Both programs aren’t accepting new students past this year. This includes the students taking the access program preparing for enrollment.
Lacorne is a mature student. After being out of school for a decade, she was in the access program to prepare her for the transition back to full-time schooling.
She says she feels sorry for other access students who now won’t be given the same chance she was.
“I feel so sorry for the access students,” said Lacorne. “They’re in the access program to go into the social work program. I’m really hoping and praying the program will continue.”
As a mother and a student, Lacorne says she had to drop classes in order to be successful in the social work program. With these new cuts, her plans to earn her bachelor’s degree are in jeopardy.
“When I heard about the news I was really discouraged,” she said. “I haven’t been to school for so long and I thought ‘Why did I even go back to school now?’
“It’s making me re-evaluate my future goals, where I want to be, my future as a future social worker from the North working with people from the North.”
Consequences for Northerners
Social workers in remote regions like the NWT are historically understaffed and underfunded. By dropping the social work program entirely, Lacorne fears it will lead to negative consequences for Northerners in general.
“They’re sending [social workers] up here, but they don’t understand the issues,” she said.
“I’m from here, I understand, I work with people that have been through the same issue that I went through and so we understand, we have that relation and connection that we have with one another in the North that is so unique.”