Thoughts on Cuts and the VCC identity and Developmental Students and the way forward
Presented to the VCC Board of Governors, June 29 2022, on behalf of the VCCFA by Taryn Thomson, VCCFA President
College of Access
When Kathy Kinloch became president at VCC (2010), she started a process of strategic planning that was the most comprehensive and consultative that faculty here had ever experienced. What emerged from the process was a co-created identity towards which the VCC community felt ownership and pride: VCC was a College of Access.
Access is central to how we see ourselves as an institution and how we do our work in the classroom. It comes from a clear view of who our students are and where they come from. Our students are primarily non sequential learners who come to us with life experience. They have jobs and families. English is often not the first language spoken at home. They may travel to us from Abbotsford, Langley, or Delta. Often, they come in need of acquiring more skills (literacy, numeracy or others) before they are prepared to succeed in their program. They face barriers due to language, disabilities, socio-economic status, or ethnicity. At VCC we take everyone, we teach them, and we support them to move onto what is next. We are a college of access.
Welcome Centre Model
I come from CCA, an ABE department. We have long had a vision in ABE of viewing registration, advising, assessing, and financial aid as a “welcome centre.” A former department head talked about this idea often. “When a student comes in the doors of the college, they should be met by someone like me,” he would say, “someone friendly, curious, and someone who knows the college and its systems well.” That person, he would continue, would talk to the prospective student, get a sense of who they need to speak to next, and walk them to that department. It’s a hands on approach that is intended to reach the hard-to-reach student, the student who is nervous, who has had negative experiences with schools, and the student who may not have confidence or language skills to negotiate bureaucratic systems.
Of course, not all VCC students are developmental students. Would culinary, music, nursing, university transfer or automotive systems technician students suffer if our systems were more welcoming, multilingual, open, patient, flexible, and accommodating? Of course not. A system that works well for the folks who need it most is a system that is good for the whole community. We all want to feel welcomed, included, and important. The welcome centre model is a good one for all ofVCC. It is a good one for a College of Access.
Systems that Fit
We need flexible, responsive systems that react to student demand and need. It does not work to try and force a system on the student. For a college of access, our student onboarding systems are too often ignorant of the needs of our actual students. Here are a few concrete examples:
- Education Planner system relies on students having strong reading, writing, and computer skills to navigate and has early cut off dates (our students typically register late)
- Payment of fees due immediately upon registering is a burden for low income students
- Long waits on email inquiry’s (particularly hard for those unused to navigating bureaucratic systems.)
We are participating in the Provincial Government’s funding review, and we are seeking increased funding to support our developmental programming. And yet on Broadway and Pender, our very systems often work against that programming and those students. Instead of trying to puzzle students into ill-fitting shapes, why don’t we become the institution that does things differently. Let’s start with the needs of developmental students and build systems and processes that help them excel. Then we will have a truly inclusive college of access that works for all students.
My thanks to the members of the Board of Governors for their ears and their hard work this year. Wishing you a pleasant summer break.