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NWCC College President finds some good in federal budget

Northwest Community College (NWCC) President Stephanie Forsyth is pleased with a couple announcements included in Tuesdays federal budget that affect post-secondary institutions. In this weeks federal budget, two announcements were made that may hold good news for NWCC and our region, Forsyth said, pointing to infrastructure funding and training provisions for colleges and universities. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty pledged $2 billion in infrastructure spending for college and university repair, upgrades and new construction. While no mechanism for selecting and supporting projects was announced, the current model for cost-shared municipal projects may provide some guidance. However, cautions Forsyth, the intergovernmental machinery for this program has been remarkably slow. Despite this commitment, colleges are on the wrong end of a 70-30 funding split between universities and colleges, something Forsyth deemed extremely disappointing. The Association of Canadian Community Colleges, of which NWCC is a member, has suggested that an employability criterion would be better for the economy. We are hoping there might be some flexibility in this ratio, added Forsyth. While there is a two-year time limit on projects that would receive federal money, Forsyth said she and others hope that it may not be rigidly imposed. The two-year limit just may not be realistic in some cases, Forsyth said. Nevertheless, it would seem that funds will flow most quickly to those institutions that are ready to go. NWCC anticipated this and along with our northern colleges submitted an outline of the infrastructure projects that we were ready to move on immediately. For NWCC, those projects include the Smithers Campus renewal and expansion, plus renovations and repairs to buildings at the Terrace Campus. Also in Tuesdays budget was a $1.5-billion promise for training individuals eligible for Employment Insurance and for those who do not traditionally qualify. Another $500 million was announced for long tenured workers and incentives for apprentices. The majority of this funding should be coming to colleges and institutes.

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