The Plan For Aurora College Nobody’s Talking About

Picture of Aurora College in NWT taken from the outside during winter with snow on the ground.

While the GNWT steams ahead with its unworkable Polytechnic University scheme featuring a gleaming campus atop Tin Can Hill, there is another plan unnoticed by the media and MLAs that makes much more sense. Let’s call it Plan E, as in E for Education and E for the NWT Economy. Plan E makes much more sense.

The details of Plan E are in the Polytechnic University Facilities Master Plan on page 80, table 13. There is a price list for renovating and building Community Learning Centres for 31 NWT communities.

  • Cost for the proposed Yellowknife campus – $364.6 million
  • Cost for 31 Community Learning Centres – $294.3 million

Community Learning Centres Are The Bridge Between K-12 And Aurora College

Aurora College enrolment

Functioning Community Learning Centres focused on upgrading students leaving the struggling community school system are the best hope for the future of the college.

On Page 80 of the Polytechnic University Facilities Master Plan, there is a list of the 21 present Community Learning centres, many built decades ago. The numbers paint a picture of decline and neglect that mirrors the dropping enrolment over the past decades.

Community learning Centres NWT current status

Part-Time Students Want To Learn, Maybe Even Become Full Time. Let’s Help Them!​

There were  266 full-time Students attending the Yellowknife campus and 179 part-time Students in 2021-2022. Total number of full-time students for the Inuvik, Thebacha and Yellowknife campuses is 443. 

The number of part-time students across all three is campuses 1,000 – mostly outside Yellowknife. See the chart to see the numbers.

Building CLCs A Better Deal For NWT Economy​

Northern United Place, Yellowknife houses Aurora College programs.
While a new Yellowknife campus may bring in more tax dollars from the GNWT, emptying out another building downtown will cancel out the benefit and further cement dependency of Big government. 

A large southern contractor will be hired to build the Yellowknife campus. Chances are good, as with the Stanton hospital project, there will be too few Northern hires and subcontractors, as the minister of the day admitted.

With the smaller scale of the community learning centres, regional and local NWT contractors would play a major role, with the potential for creating training and apprentice opportunities at the same time. The regional centres and businesses would also benefit. A win win for education and the NWT economy because the end result will be a larger workforce.

As for Yellowknife business community, constantly under pressure from GNWT procurement and build policies as seen by thousands of square feet of vacant office space, there would be some $70 million to expand and upgrade the existing facilities until a full blown campus made sense. That would be a win for Yellowknife too. 

Aurora College Not Yet On Radar For Yellowknife Graduates​

Most of Sir John Franklin High School grads go to universities in the South for their higher education. 

It’s important Yellowknifers understand what the Department of Education has been led to ignore: The vast majority of graduating students from the 6,500 government workers and professional staff in the private sector want to attend southern universities as their parents did.

My children went south for the many wonderful options. Aurora College, polytechnic or otherwise, is not on the radar. At the grad parents information session at Sir John Franklin, Aurora College was not offered as an option for post-secondary education. It was on a list shown on the wall screen among many other options. 

The point is, that a Polytechnic University may well be in NWT’s future, but not in the present, because of what we haven’t done in the past which was to provide the education needed for community school students to excel.

Future Of Aurora College Is Tied To Improving Education Results In Community School​

Table 3: Head Count by Program Division - 2012-2017 Aurora College Northwest Territories
Click on the image above to see what most of the students in Aurora College are taking.

Make no mistake, the true foundation of Aurora College is the community schools. Until the results there are addressed, Aurora College will never progress beyond what it’s been for over 50 years – a safety net for the K-12 community students. You can read here how the community schools are doing and how the Department of Education ministers and DMs have downplayed the true state of education outside of Yellowknife.

The headcount chart shows the highest number of students are part-time and take courses to get ready for more learning. That is the College’s strength. As we begin to get better results in the K-12 system, the role of Aurora College will expand. If we do nothing to improve those results, nothing will change. The college, the K-12 community school system, and most importantly, the students will continue to struggle. 

You can read here how the community schools are doing and how the Department of Education ministers and DMs have downplayed the true state of education outside of Yellowknife.


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