Continuous Intake Courses in Jeopardy as KPU Considers Dividing Faculty of ACA

Students and instructors from the faculty of academic and career advancement share concerns about proposed changes to the program

A student and tutor in a continuous intake math course work together to solve an equation. (Aly Laube)

UPDATE: At the meeting of the university senate on Nov. 26, KPU Provost Sal Ferreras stated that the proposed changes to the ACA faculty would follow section GV9 of the KPU Bylaws and Procedures. The section governs the discontinuance of faculties and departments. Ferreras also confirmed that the proposed changes were being pushed from January to April.

Some of the university’s most vulnerable students could be at risk of losing their programming, according to members of the Faculty of Academic and Career Advancement (ACA).

An open letter sent by the faculty, intended for other instructors and staff at the university, calls for support in confronting KPU President Alan Davis and Provost Salvador Ferreras about their supposed plans to stop offering continuous intake courses under academic and career advancement.

Among lesser requests, the letter demands that the administration adhere to appropriate university policy and process, undertake consultation, and provide evidence which supports its decision to divide the ACA’s departments into separate faculties.

Background

Continuous intake (CI) is a teaching method meant to help students with atypical needs and schedules receive the math and English credits they need to further their education. Designed to provide flexible class times, one-on-one instructing, and a self-paced format, many students enrolled in CI are parents, immigrants, and students with learning disabilities.

Right now, continuous intake programming belongs to the Faculty of Academic and Career Advancement at KPU. Also under this faculty is the university’s access program for people with disabilities, adult upgrading framework, qualifying studies courses, and English language proficiency diploma. The faculty provides tuition-free classes for ESL and ABE students and maintains partnerships with external organizations such as WorkBC and the Phoenix Society, a Surrey not-for-profit which supports those hoping to escape the cycle of addiction and homelessness.

At the beginning of November, KPU Provost and Vice President Academic Sal Ferreras had a meeting with the ACA faculty to discuss his proposal for moving its English language training courses into the Faculty of Arts and its science and math preparatory training into the Faculty of Science and Horticulture. According to instructors present at this meeting, this proposal was prompted by concern over the financial unsustainability of the CI program.

The faculty responded largely with confusion and apprehension, and claim that many of their questions have about the transition have gone unanswered. Though the proposed changes to the faculty will be brought to the university’s senate on Nov. 26, consultation between the instructors and the administration has yet to take place.

ACA Instructors Weigh In

Two instructors for continuous intake courses, Tanya Boboricken (left) and Geoff Dean (right), are concerned about the future of the faculty. (Aly Laube)

Two of the ACA’s instructors, Geoff Dean and Tanya Boboricken, feel that continuous intake is necessary in order to effectively serve their region—namely the tri-city area that surrounds Metro Vancouver. While they say they were told by Ferreras that their faculty will not suffer any job loss, they are unsure of how that will be possible.

“One rationale [Ferreras] gave was that it’s cost-saving, but at the same time he said there will be no job loss, so that’s not cost-saving, then,” says Boboricken, who is also the Department of Academic and Career Preparation’s co-chair for math and science. “Getting rid of our CI program, you could see that as cost-saving.”

Ferreras has cited concerns about low student enrolment and completion rates for CI courses. According to David Connop-Price, the media and communications manager for KPU, “approximately 50 per cent of continuous intake students are not completing their courses, either because they have not continued to attend or have not been able to successfully achieve the passing grade for the given course.”

Despite the concerns, Dean and Boboricken attest that the demand is more than high enough to warrant the supply of these programs.

“It’s a bureaucratic issue because the university looks at what your enrolment is like two or three weeks before classes are set to start and decides whether to cancel that section of the course or let it continue, right?” says Dean. “Well, with continuous intake, people are coming into it at all sorts of times, and it’s likely that a class won’t get three quarters full into a week or so into September.”

Still, KPU isn’t the first to consider making such a change, Boboricken explains.

“Years ago, Douglas College took their upgrading program and switched it into the math department and English department and proceeded to lose about a third of the programming,” she says. “That kind of shows us would could happen to us I guess.”

She and Dean both worry that specialized resources provided by staff and instructors experienced with CI will cease to exist if the faculty is divided. For teaching basic math and literacy skills, they feel it is imperative for students to be able to access continuous intake programming.

According to Ferreras, the division of the ACA faculty could begin as early as spring 2019.

Student Reactions and Experiences with CI

Some of the members of the ACA faculty who have spoken to their classes about the provost’s plans for continuous intake at KPU have received negative reactions.

Kate Gibbs, a single mother and mature student taking a CI math course, says that she is “a little bit disappointed in the administration for doing this oh-so-quietly and not consulting with the people whose lives are changed by the program.”

“I understand that they’re continuing on in the spring as normal, but I would like to know why there hasn’t been more information given out about this,” she says. “I’m happy I go to Kwantlen and I’m really grateful for the professors and the class sizes and that it’s created by community. This change, and such a quiet change, has really upset what I expect from Kwantlen.”

Gibbs worries that, by discontinuing CI programming, the administration will “create a fracture” that could potentially lead to the loss of the entire faculty. She will be gone before then, however, and is preparing to graduate with her Bachelor of Arts in General Studies this spring.

“It’s the first step in really dismantling the whole service, in my opinion,” she says. “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of information for what the new vision has been for it. If I could understand the new vision, perhaps I could support it, but all I know is that it’s changing and it’s going to be more limited, so that’s a concern for me.”

Ellaine Hambrook, who is currently taking math but still has six months to a year left in CI, is also a mother with a busy schedule. Her husband works, and without the flexibility of CI courses, she doubts she would be able to attend classes at all.

“It’s not going to work because of my kids. I’ve got to drop them off to school and I’ve got to come here, and at home I’ve got to take care of a lot of stuff,” she says. “There’s no way for me to go home and do homework. I do that sometimes, but it’s the middle of the night and then I don’t get sleep and still have class the next day.”

If she had to take fixed intake courses with semester-based deadlines and schedules, she predicts that she would “definitely end up failing.”

“I’ll end up doing it again and again,” she says. “With fixed intake, you’ve got to do it [according to your instructor’s schedule]. It’s not as self-paced.”

Emily Galbraith, another mother who is pursuing an education in nursing at KPU, echoes this sentiment. She emphasizes the importance of working with instructors and tutors one-on-one in order to fully understand what she’s learning.

“If this were a fixed intake course, and I had to work more at a professor’s pace, when I don’t understand something, then it’s up to me outside of school to get some extra help,” she says. “Being a full-time mother to two children who have complex needs, and spending most of my time outside of school at Children’s for my youngest who has medical complications, this gives me the opportunity so that I don’t have to stress so much at home.”

Kyle McMahon says he was “sad and upset” when he “started thinking about how different it would be” for him to be in school without continuous intake.

“I require lots of time to learn the concepts and master the various math skills,” he says. “I’ve been doing this for probably three years now.”

He’s nearly done with his upgrading and is ready to receive a general business certificate, but says that he “feels a little sorry for those others in the same boat” who are just entering into the courses he completed over the years.

Although she was a practicing nurse in her home country of India, Jasmeet Kaur is in health foundations at KPU and is currently working full-time at St. Paul’s Hospital. She finished her entire CI math course in less than three months, which was only possible for her because of the fluid nature of the program.

She adds that, for students who need to upgrade their courses before specific program application deadlines close, continuous intake provides the chance to finish far before the regular semester has let out.

“I am already graduated in my country. I am already a nurse in my country, but I have to do everything again,” she says. “I already know about math but I need a system or a class which encourages me to finish everything …. Since it has been seven years since I did my Math 11, there are still some points that are unclear, so I need a tutor.”

Matthew Rushton had already completed KPU’s Literacy Communities program—which is tailored to helping people with cognitive disabilities develop skills with reading comprehension, socializing, finances, and computers—by the time he started taking his current CI math course. He was encouraged by his Literacy Communities instructor to pursue his dream of working as an automotive service technician, and plans to enrol in the program at KPU soon to achieve this goal. Until then, taking a course in CI allows him to work at his own pace.

Response from the Provost

Sal Ferreras, the provost and vice-president academic for KPU, is spearheading the proposal to divide the ACA faculty. (Aly Laube)

As provost, Ferreras says that “there are some structural changes that have nothing to do with continuous intake that are taking place,” which influenced him to propose the restructuring of the ACA faculty.

Although he will “listen to reason” while considering whether continuous intake courses will be offered by KPU in the future, he notes that their high operation costs and low completion rates are among the reasons why he is “seriously considering” removing them.

“Students being served by this were not completing at any great rate. Some of them were just not finishing and some were not passing, and whenever that happens with any university delivery model, it has to be looked at,” says Ferreras.

He continues, “This is a very expensive program to maintain. [The tuition that comes in from the program] supports the educational delivery of having an instructor in the room. The class size for continuous intake has, for years, been quite low relative to … the maximum level that has been set for those courses.”

Ferreras notes that the university is focusing on achieving the priorities set out in its recent Vision 2023 document, and that expensive courses—such as those offered as part of continuous intake—are impeding its ability to do so.

He says that CI is “not an ideal model,” but clarifies that this has nothing to do with the instructors. Rather, it has to do with the “utilization of space” and the program’s low student completion rates.

“I don’t understand how we could go back to the government and say, ‘We need more money for ABE,’ when we’re not even filling up the classes right now,” he says. “It would be very difficult to make that case, so the model needs a look.”

In response to concerns about job security for continuous intake instructors, Ferreras says that “almost all, if not all, of them are capable of teaching in the fixed intake, so they will be absorbed into the other side of the delivery model.”

He also emphasizes that other, nearby institutions provide similar services as those currently being offered at KPU. These schools may be a “better place” for students currently taking or planning or take CI courses, according to Ferreras.

“I’m trying to realign departments. I’m trying to move all the English language training into the Faculty of Arts, all of the science and math preparatory training into the Faculty of Science and Horticulture, because then there are communities in place and people are with their peers,” he says.

Although he initially anticipated these changes being made in January, Ferreras says they’re now more likely to take place in April to allow time for consultation.

As laid out in the university’s policies and bylaws—specifically section GV9 regarding governance—there are certain procedures that the administration must adhere to when dissolving a faculty. However, according to Ferreras, his plan for CI does not qualify as faculty dissolution.

This is not only because he plans to transfer continuous intake to different faculties rather than eliminating it altogether, but also because one program will remain in the ACA faculty: the access program for people with disabilities.

“It’s just the reporting relationship that changes,” Ferreras explains. “Right now those departments report to the Dean of ACA—so the Dean of ACA position was terminated due to restructuring—and my proposal is that they would report to the Dean of Arts for English and the Dean of Science for Science and Math.”

He hopes to remind those affected by the changes to CI that he is “trying to make it better, not just less,” and notes that KPU is committed to accepting “students from all walks of life.”

The Termination of the ACA Dean Position

Faculty members in the ACA say that they were surprised to hear the news that they no longer had a dean at the end of October.

Ferreras refutes suggestions that the termination of this position—and thus the loss of a job for then-dean Patrick Donahoe—is indicative that the university had already solidified its plans for CI before conducting any consultation with students and faculty. He reminds faculty that it is important to acknowledge that “there was nothing wrong with the dean” that led to the termination of his contract.

“I can not discuss the details of the termination of anybody,” he says. “But I had been in discussion with the dean for more than a year about this, so it wasn’t a surprise. We had had a number of conversations about this, but the data that led me to the final decision about this was the examination and the analysis of the model, which is not good.”

Ferreras says he did not have a conversation with Donahoe about informing the faculty of the future of CI, but “assumed it was on their radar” during the time that they were meeting to discuss the reorganization of the ACA faculty.

“There are cost-saving measures across the university. This restructuring—and the restructuring of the dean position—is probably the only thing other than continuous intake that has to do with financial sustainability,” he explains. “It’s a financial matter. Everything else is an academic matter.”

Eliminating the position of Dean of the Faculty of Academic and Career Advancement has the potential to be cost-saving if, as Ferreras anticipates, the Dean of Design steps into that role as well. This dean, “who has experience with community health services,” would be occupying both positions at once.

“This is what these consultations are going to be about over the next couple of months, so this could turn out completely different,” he says.

Ferreras also notes that other faculties outside of ACA may soon be facing restructuring as he assesses “quality of delivery across the university,” but can not divulge which faculties these may be as he “has to tell them first.”

Discussion of these issues will take place at a KPU Senate meeting on Nov. 26, with Ferreras organizing additional meetings with faculty both before and after that point. The Runner will continue to cover this story as it unfolds.

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