Peterborough, Kawartha Lakes seek government aid to save Fleming College programs

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Municipalities seek government aid in saving cut Fleming College programs
Peterborough is weighing in on the program cuts at Fleming College. The city is asking the provincial and federal government to increase support for post-secondary institutions to help meet the labour demands. Robert Lothian explains. – Jun 19, 2024

The City of Peterborough, Ont., is joining the municipal push for more government supports for colleges in the wake of Fleming College’s decision to cut 29 college programs.

College officials say the program cuts, announced in April, were prompted by several funding shortfalls, notably the federal cap on international students.

The college says nearly 30 per cent of the student population at Fleming’s campuses — in Peterborough, Lindsay and Haliburton — comes from outside of Canada.

In Ontario, 141,000 student permits are expected to be approved for 2024 — a 41 per cent decrease from the more than 239,000 student visas issued in 2023.

On Monday, city council endorsed a motion moved by Coun. Joy Lachica to “encourage” both the federal and provincial governments to increase support to college boards, by “establishing metrics and direction around maintaining courses where cohorts offer a return on investment in the local economy, in small business and in filling jobs vital to a college’s immediate region.”

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The motion — which will got to a final approval vote on Monday — says the program cuts impact “the local channel for training needed for skilled workers in the Peterborough region.”

If approved, the resolution will be forwarded to multiple provincial ministries, the federal Minister of Immigration, and to Peterborough-Kawartha MPP Dave Smith and MP Michelle Ferreri.

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The motion follows a similar motion passed by the neighbouring City of Kawartha Lakes, which is concerned about the impact the cuts will have on Frost campus in Lindsay. Of the 29 programs to be cut, 16 are at the Frost campus.

“(We’re) just asking if they could find a way to work with the college in order that some of these programs be re-installed or restored,” said Kawartha Lakes Mayor Doug Elmslie.

He said he admits that while the college cuts aren’t a municipal issue, the impact will be felt locally with fewer students contributing to the local economy.

“The exposure to different cultures enriched us all I think, also they contributed to the economy in several different ways,” he said.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) represents Fleming staff. Both union locals have called the cuts “unprecedented” but say community response has been “inspiring.” OPSEU is also asking the province to review h0w funds are allocated to post-secondary institutions.

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“The way that money is relayed to the public and explained to the public, chops it up so much that it ends up being a very minimal impact on the operating budgets of most institutions, said Marcia Steeves, president of OPSEU Local 351, representing college faculty and councillors.

Added Victoria Maystruk Falls, union stewart with Local 352, representing support staff, “What we’re hearing is the communities are concerned any shrinkage of programming is concerning to students.”

Fleming College has not responded to requests for an interview with president Maureen Adamson. She has not granted interviews with Global News since the program cuts were announced.

In a statement in April, Adamson said the college continues to offer nearly 100 programs and is “committed to quality education that meets the current and future labour market needs of our local and regional community.”

Peterborough-Kawartha MPP Dave Smith defends the cuts, claiming the slashed programs had significant international student enrolment. He says that’s not the province’s responsibility.

“In fact, the vast majority of them didn’t have a single domestic student,” he said. “And I think it would be irresponsible for the province of Ontario to take taxpayer money from the people of Ontario to give to international students.”

Elmslie said his municipality is not criticizing the decision, rather it is advocating for the community.

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“And all we can do is kind of be a cheerleader and say, ‘If we can help, tell us how we can help,'” he said.

These 29 programs at Fleming will be suspended, the college reports:

  • Business – Accounting (BAC)
  • Business – HR (BHC)
  • Conservation and Environmental Law Enforcement (NRL)
  • Ecological Restoration (ERJ)
  • Ecosystem Management Technology (EMX, EPX, EPD, EMD)
  • Electrical Power Generation (EPG)
  • Emergency Management (EMP)
  • Environmental Technician (ETN)
  • Environmental Technology (ETY)
  • Environmental Visual Communication (EVC)
  • Fish & Wildlife Technology (FW)
  • GAS Environmental & Natural Resource Studies (GSN)
  • General Arts & Science University Transfer (GSU)
  • GIS Applications (GIA) & GIS Applications Online (GAO)
  • GIS Cartographic (GC)
  • Global Business (GBS)
  • Health, Safety and Environmental Compliance (HSE)
  • Heavy Equipment Techniques (MPH)
  • International Business Management (IBM)
  • Law Clerk (LCK)
  • Marketing Management (MKT)
  • Mechatronics (MTY)
  • Project Management (PMG)
  • Recreation & Leisure Services (RLS)
  • Supply Chain (SCL)
  • Therapeutic Recreation (THR)
  • Urban Forestry (UF)
  • Urban Forestry Technician (UFT)
  • Waste Resource Management (SWM)

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