NORTEP library. Photo courtesy NORTEP/NORPAC group on Facebook, photo by Dale Apesis.

The province’s advanced education critic is calling into question the government’s decision to cut funds to the NORTEP-NORPAC program even with knowledge of the program’s success.

In August it was announced that funding to the northern education program would be re-directed to another post-secondary institution. Officials haven’t commented any further about what that change would actually look like, but have assured student interests will be the number one concern in any changes.

“This is a broken promise, this is a bad move,” said Warren McCall, the provincial NDP’s advanced education critic. “It’s going to hurt the north and the government should stand down and turn around.”

When speaking on the program McCall drew reference to a report done by the SaskParty on the NORTEP-NORPAC program in 2014. According to McCall the report gave the program “glowing” reviews and he is shocked to see the program being cut in light of the report.

“You have a successful program that is putting tools in the hands of northerners and you see the SaskParty coming around after the election and making northerners pay the price for the SaskParty’s mistakes,” he said.

The report was obtained by the NDP through an Access to Information Request and highlighted the graduation rates and employment outcomes of the program with over 90% of grads finding work in a related field.

The province’s Deputy Minister for Advanced Education, Louise Greenberg, admits the report showed many highlights and strengths of the NORTEP-NORPAC program. However, she says the NDP failed to point out the areas that need to be worked on.

“Some of them talked about how the cost of operating the program have risen significantly. 71% between 2004 and 2012,” said Greenberg. “(The report) also talked about how the current system isn’t fair for accessing financial assistance to cover tuition and living expenses, in that other institutions offering similar programs in La Ronge are not able to provide the same assistance as NORTEP-NORPAC.”

Greenberg says provincial officials will be meeting with key stakeholders over the next few months and an announcement on any changes shouldn’t be expected for a long-time.

“A key point about the decisions that are going to be made really needs to be guided by outcomes that ensure all students continue to have access to high quality education while demonstrating financial sustainability,” she said.

Recently, NORTEP-NORPAC officials reached out to former students to share their success stories while they negotiate with the government.

In the meantime, operations and classes at the program will continue as normal throughout the upcoming year.