Northlands College offers NORTEP students funding, but housing concerns persist

Students transferring to Northlands College in northern Saskatchewan have a little more financial security after an announcement from the post-secondary institution, but they still don’t have a place to live.

51 transfer students from Northern Teacher Education Program will get the same funding they had before

Northlands College has announced it will cover tuition and book costs for students who were previously funded by the Northern Teacher Education Program Council Inc. and are transitioning to the college. (

Students transferring to Northlands College in northern Saskatchewan have a little more financial security after an announcement this week from the post-secondary institution, but their housing situation is still up in the air.

On Tuesday, the school in La Ronge, Sask., announced that it will cover tuition and book costs for students who were previously funded by the Northern Teacher Education Program Council Inc. and are transitioning to Northlands College by July 31.

Students who are entering into year 4 of their program and who were previously funded by the NORTEP council will also be eligible for a living allowance, but some questions remain about student housing.

Northlands College is taking over the programs that were offered by NORTEP and the Northern Professional Access College, or NORPAC, in the fall. The college has also hired the three longest-serving instructors from the teacher education program. Both programs will cease to exist on July 31 after the provincial government cut their funding last year.

Northlands president and CEO Toby Greschner said he was happy to make the funding announcement, but that the school cannot provide other funding to students at this time because of the financial position it was left in.

'Significant financial challenge'

The college said that the NORTEP board has "disposed" of its vehicles, computers and teaching resources that could've been passed on.

"Rather than transferring them to Northlands College, [NORTEP] has already left us with a significant financial challenge," said Greschner.

According to the province, the NORTEP Council Inc. and the board are responsible for the disposition of assets and settling of liabilities.

NORTEP acting president Jennifer Malsten declined to make a comment to CBC and refused to verify Northlands' claims about the handling of assets. CBC has been unable to reach the NORTEP board president.

Faculty and students protesting education cuts in La Ronge, Sask., on Oct. 19, 2016 at the Saskatchewan Legislature. (CBC)
A total of 51 students from defunct programs are transferring to Northlands, which has received over 325 student applications for university programs this year, up from less than 200 last year.

Tuition and books won't be covered for students who aren't transferring, but Greschner said the school will be looking into supports for students available over the next year and try to come up with a system to meet their needs.

Students pay tuition of about $6,000 per year on average, and textbooks cost up to $1,000.

"It's our belief that any student in the north who wants to go to school … whether it's university or not, should be able to do so. So we have to come up with a system that makes sure that there is an opportunity for them to find the resources to do that."

Housing issues

Student housing is still up in the air for Northlands students. All 64 units of NORTEP's student apartment complex are owned and managed by the program, and the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation has a funding agreement in place on 12 of the units for lower-income students and families.

Greschner said NORTEP's ownership of the apartments was "an incredible feat" because it allowed the program to give students an allowance and get part of it back through rent. It was also able to give students a reduction on their housing costs.

NORTEP Council Inc. is currently working with the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation to discuss the future of the apartment complex.

"NORTEP had a really good thing going there, where the institution ran the housing and it worked. Now it seems like they don't want to carry on with that and it's almost like they just have different ideas than what would seem to be logical," Greschner said.

"We hope that whatever decision the council comes to, that they put the interest of students first. If they can't find a place to live, they're not going to go to school here."

Greschner said he thinks it would be in the best interest of students if Northlands owned and operated the housing complex. Due to the uncertainty of the future of the apartments, he said the school has gone as far as it can afford to go on student allowances.

"We all agree that there is a continued affordable housing need for the housing assets currently owned by NORTEP, and that these housing assets should continue to be available for families and individuals with modest incomes, including students," said the provinicial government in an emailed statement.

"We would like to take this opportunity to assure the tenants that SHC and NORTEP recognize the need to make good decisions quickly in order to ensure tenants experience minimal disruptions."

Library resources go to northern system

The Pahkisimon Nuyeʔáh Library System, which includes public, school and post-secondary libraries in northern Saskatchewan, confirmed it is receiving the NORTEP library resources.

Director James Hope Howard said the books will be accessible for loan to anyone who has a public library card, including Northlands students, likely before the end of August.

He said discussions are underway to establish a collection of the NORTEP items at the Alex Robertson Public Library to support the students at Northlands College, which is across the street.

with files from CBC's Alicia Bridges