NORTEP students will be accepted into Northlands College, according to CEO

Students, faculty & alumni of the Northern Teacher Education Program protest a decision to transition the program to Northlands College. Amie Bell / Submitted

The CEO of a northern Saskatchewan post-secondary school is assuring current Northern Teacher Education Program (NORTEP) students they will be accepted into the institution selected to take over their program.

In March the province announced that NORTEP would transition to Northlands College by August. Both institutions are located in La Ronge, Sask.

READ MORE: Northlands College takes over university education in northern Saskatchewan

Northlands College CEO Toby Greschner said in an interview on Tuesday that officials are working to make the transition as smooth and seamless as possible for students, despite a decision by NORTEP’s council to not transfer its assets to the college.

“We are trying our hardest to make sure those students retain what they were promised going into NORTEP,” Greschner said.

In a recent press release, the NORTEP Student Association outlined a number of concerns regarding the transition process. Their worries stem from application ads posted by Northlands College for the upcoming fall semester.

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“These application ads give the impression that current NORTEP students need to reapply and have no guarantee of being admitted into the new program to finish their chosen degrees,” the press release stated.

However Greschner said current students will be “accepted automatically” into Northlands College if they wish to continue pursuing an education degree.

“It’s not like there’s this big, stringent selection process, they just need to apply to get into the system,” Greschner said.

The student association also highlighted worries that the college would deliver classes through “videoconferencing, online and live lecture.” Members of the student body have previously voiced concerns that the move to Northlands College would result in losing one-on-one interaction between teachers and students.

READ MORE: Dozens protest decision to move NORTEP to Northlands College

Greschner said this will likely not be the case as Northlands College intends to have “real teachers in front of real students teaching basically the same way it’s been going on for the last 25 years.”

“We’re not going to be putting students on video conferencing classes, unless they choose to,” he said.

Another sticking point revolves around financial assistance. The student association noted that “there is no indication of receiving a living allowance through Northlands College,” which was offered by NORTEP.

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Greschner admitted that he can’t assure students they’ll receive the same financial assistance as in the past.

“Due to fiscal restraints, we just can’t say for sure,” Greschner said.

“We want to be able to say that, we’re working hard to try to get to be able to say that, but we’re just not there yet.”

Greschner noted that NORTEP’s business model, which included the allowance, can’t be replicated at Northlands College since it’s not receiving the program’s assets. The council instead decided to hand its assets over to the Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI), which was NORTEP’s first choice to transition its program to.

NORTEP spokesperson Jennifer Malmsten said the council was legally forced to disperse NORTEP’s assets to another non-profit corporation, which GDI is. She added that the move also ensures there will be an indigenous organization that can offer education programming in the area if the province ever chose to cut funding to Northlands College.

“It’s just money management, making sure that everything is dispersed around equally,” Malmsten explained.

Communication between Northlands College and NORTEP has been strained since the decision, Malsten said. However she added that NORTEP is “very open to working with [Northlands College] staff” as long as they’re made aware of what’s “happening around this very sensitive issue.”
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“Within probably an appropriate time period, everything will work itself out the way it was meant to be,” Malmsten said.

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