NIC looks to separate itself from high school

NIC's shared campus may be contributing to declining enrolment at its Campbell River campus

A shared facility may be contributing to declining enrolment at North Island College’s Campbell River campus, according to the school’s president.

John Bowman, president of North Island College (NIC), said a combination of factors, including demographics and the economy, have led to decreasing numbers each year since 2009 but the college not having its own space may be greatest contributing factor.

“The weakness is, frankly, the college brand or presence in a shared facility has been very detrimental,” Bowman told the Strathcona Regional District Board during a presentation to the board last Wednesday.

“A lot of young people from Campbell River I’ve heard from don’t view the college as the best campus for a full college life experience.

“We don’t offer enough programs in Campbell River as we need to and should be, so we have a lot of work to do there,” he added.

According to a report from Bowman, student enrolment at Campbell River’s NIC campus was at roughly 1,300 in the 2009/10 academic year but has fallen steadily each year since, to a low of fewer than 1,000 students this year.

Campbell River Director Larry Samson said he believes the problem lies with the fact that the NIC campus isn’t distancing itself enough from the high school experience.

While NIC has its own wings, there’s nothing to prevent high school students from walking down the hall to the college, or vice versa.

The cafeteria and library are shared, although the library is split down the middle with the college and high school each having its own side.

“We’re having Grade 9 students entering onto that campus and to me that’s not conducive to adult learners and it’s also not conducive to a student that graduates from Grade 12 and is looking for that next stage in their life and to go next door, right back into that same environment,” Samson said.

“We’re losing these people, to Victoria or wherever.”

Bowman agreed that NIC needs some segregation and told the board that the college is looking to makes some changes.

“The analogy we’ve been using recently is akin to right now the college and high school are living in the same house, under the same roof and everything is quite intermixed,” Bowman said.

“The hallways are quite jammed with young kids, as you said Gr.9’s, and adult learners. We would like to move to a more of a duplex arrangement where the college and high school are side-by-side and there’s some potential for some cross integration but we have a clear, this is the college, this is the high school, and we know when we’re moving from one to the other.

“Right now that’s not clear, so we think we can create on the site, with some significant re-configurations and additions to the existing building, a real college experience, a real college environment for adults that will be beside the high school and the high school will have access to the college,” Bowman added. “There will be some great synergy potentially but it will be clear when you’re in the college versus when you’re in the high school.

“I think that will address some of the branding and campus life concerns.”