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TRU adjusts to local needs

Dr. Ray Saunders is enthusiastic about the future of TRU. - Photo submitted
Dr. Ray Saunders is enthusiastic about the future of TRU.
— image credit: Photo submitted

A $70 million-cut to advanced education by the ministry of education hits all colleges and universities, said Dr. Ray Sanders, TRU’s campus director in Williams Lake.

“It’s tougher on more rural campuses,” Sanders told city council during its regular meeting Tuesday.

“For example I don’t have 30 or 40 sections of English 1100 that I can increase class size and reduce the edge of faculty or sessional faculty.”

Instead, he has one section of everything.

Budget concerns have driven some of the decisions the university has made in Williams Lake.

One of those changes was to start charging for parking in September to help generate some revenue.

“Some of us have said, wow, we’re finally a university, we have parking issues,” Sanders chuckled. He thanked the city for working with TRU on the parking.

“It is unpleasant to have to pay for parking and I think we’re one of the first in Williams Lake to have to do that.”

Funds from the parking will be used for repairing the parking lot and eventually to build a new parking lot as the university expands.

Another change was to move part of Sander’s salary to Kamloops because he also works as the executive director for community and university for the entire university and has staff in Kamloops and other regional offices.

TRU will be looking at cutting some of its lower-enrolment programs, however, Sanders said he’s optimistic that with change there will also be new opportunities.

“We’re looking at a ranch management program and addressed the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and they are very excited. Right now they are having to send their sons and daughters to Olds, Alta., to get their training.”

The ranch program could address the cattle industry specifically, and the program could be offered in a block model where students study one course at a time, he suggested.

Last year TRU added the saw-filing course, which is the only one in Western Canada.

“We get calls all the time from folks in Oregon who want to send their people here for training, but we tell them we give preference to Cariboo-Chilcotin people and then B.C. people first.”

The university is also hoping to expand its trades and apprenticeship programs because there is an increasing need for skilled workers.

There is a waiting list for the electrical and welding programs, but there wasn’t enough interest for the residential construction program this year, either from the secondary schools or the community.

“On the other hand we’re going to Ireland and other places to recruit foreign temporary workers — so there’s a disconnect out there.”

When it comes to international students, Sanders said 16 will be arriving this fall to studying nursing.

“It’s slower than I wanted, but I am hoping to increase that number to 300.”

On Saturday, March 29, TRU will hold its annual gala in Williams Lake, with this year’s theme being the Great Gatsby.

Sanders said it’s fitting the era of the theme is the 1920s, the same era Williams Lake was founded.

Funds raised from the gala go to support local students with scholarships and bursaries.

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