Introduction of community learning centre fees

Chris Morland
Chris Morland
Almost everyone studying through Otago Polytechnic's community learning centres will have to pay fees next year, after further cuts in Government subsidies for adult community education.

This year the polytechnic received subsidies for 84 equivalent full-time student (efts) places at the centres but next year would receive funding for only 20, sport and business group manager Chris Morland said yesterday.

Fees for the two most popular programmes, 60-credit level 2 courses in computing and business administration and computing, would be between $1200 and $1500, he said.

The introduction of fees would affect hundreds of people as it took many students to make up one efts, he said.

Students would still have flexibility about how they completed the courses.

While each could be completed in six months full time, most people spread their learning over a longer period.

There are two community learning centres in Dunedin and one each in Mosgiel, Queenstown and the Otago Corrections facility at Milton.

Mr Morland said a "dampening" of enrolments was expected because of the loss of subsidised places.

The polytechnic had budgeted for a decline of 40 efts, from 140 to 100.

"But we are still expecting significant engagement ...

Our community learning centre manager tells me price does not seem to be putting people off.

She thinks people will be more selective about what they study and will probably be better engaged and more likely to complete their course because they have to pay."

A range of user-pays short courses would also be introduced covering digital literacy skills such as Skyping, emailing, spread-sheeting and using social networking sites, he said.

The peak year for adult community education was 2004, when the Government spent $114 million subsidising night classes and polytechnic courses.

However, the brakes were applied after it was revealed some polytechnics were abusing the system, enrolling students in courses which had little academic value and minimal tuition or supervision.

Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology received $15 million for a computing course which involved issuing students a $5 CD-ROM and did not require them to attend classes.

Last year, the Government announced adult community education funding would be slashed by 80% from the start of this year.

Three Dunedin schools stopped offering courses and an estimated 30 tutors lost their jobs.

The polytechnic closed its community learning centres in Forth St, Dunedin, Wanaka and Alexandra and reduced staff by 6.5 full-time equivalent positions.

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