College says decision partly due to literacy students not becoming paying, credit students
By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor
Students participating in Douglas College literacy skills courses are crying foul over proposed cuts to daytime classes that they have come to rely on to learn critical life skills.
The 100-level classes, which fall under Douglas College’s English Upgrading portfolio of courses within the Faculty of Language, Literature, and Performing Arts, are attended by dozens of students who have difficulty with basic reading and writing. The cuts are targeted toward daytime classes and would affect about 12 students.
The cuts to the 100-level classes come after a review of Douglas College’s finances, where they discovered that the basic literacy classes were over-producing against the funding they were receiving from the Ministry of Advanced Education. College administration chose to cut 10.5 per cent from the Adult Basic Education (ABE) courses offered tuition-free—in accordance with a decision made by the BC government in 2007 through the Adult Opportunities Action Plan that these literacy classes should be offered to the community free of charge.
Meg Stainsby, the dean of language, literature, and performing arts, said in an interview with The Tyee earlier this year that the cuts were made in part because less than one out of five students in the 100-level courses will progress to post-secondary courses.
“Because the mandate of the college is largely focussed on post-secondary education, and because these are expensive courses to deliver and duplicate services that are available elsewhere,” said Stainsby to The Tyee’s Katie Hyslop in March, “it felt like a very fiscally responsible way to continue to serve the population that is more in line with the mandate of the college.”
While literacy programs are available throughout the Lower Mainland, spaces are far and few. Many of the spaces in literacy programs offered at the school board-level are taken up by international students, who are literate in their native language but do not know how to read or write in English. Many of the students taking the 100-level courses at Douglas College were referred there by other community organizations.
Students in the daytime class are speaking out, saying that the literacy skills they learn enhance their quality of life and allow them to live more independently.
Bob McDonald, student, said that the class at Douglas College has enabled him to live with some measure of independence. “I have good support from my family,” said McDonald, “but I also don’t want to depend on them for everything.”
Some of the students in the daytime class are unable to attend the evening class, either due to other responsibilities or because of mobility issues. A number of students rely on HandyDART to get to and from class. Other students are only able to attend classes while their children are in school.
Another student, simply identified as Blessing, was clearly heartbroken when speaking to the Other Press about the proposed cutting of her class. “I never had the chance to go to school—this class is my life right now,” said Blessing. She added that she was unable to fill out basic medical forms at a clinic, and would make up excuses like forgetting her reading glasses in order to get assistance.
All of the students in the 100-level courses are given additional support by tutors provided by I-CARE, Douglas College’s literacy tutoring program.
Some of the students, supported by their tutors, have formed a committee and are preparing a presentation for the Douglas College board to plead their case. The board has yet to confirm whether they will get a chance to present their case at the next board meeting, scheduled for November 21 at the David Lam campus.
“We are fighting to get our lives back,” said Blessing.
The decision to cut the daytime class was made by the Douglas College senior management team earlier this year. The college board has the power to review the decision and direct the senior management team to revisit the issue.