Education provider asks council for funding

By John Maslin

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Whanganui Community Education Services is struggling to stay open.
Whanganui Community Education Services is struggling to stay open.

Whanganui's Community Education Services (CES) says that without a significant increase in funding from the district council the organisation will have to close its doors.

That grim scenario was outlined yesterday in a submission to the district council's 2016-17 annual plan hearings by CES manager Sian MacGibbon.

Mrs MacGibbon said CES was unique in Whanganui and that no other organisation provided life-long learning as it did.

She said it had been around for more than 35 years but its work had been made more difficult after the funding usually expected from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) was cut.

"TEC's focus has shifted to qualification-based learning and job placement. While we do not provide national qualifications-based outcomes, we do provide educational courses which the community identifies with."

Last year CES delivered courses and workshops to more than 700 students, which was a 10 per cent increase on 2014.

Students were not only from Whanganui but also from as far away as Feilding, Otaki and Turangi. In the first term of this year, 120 students had enrolled in 17 courses and more than half were new students. "This is good evidence we provide not only a valuable service to our community but that we also enrich lives and encourage positive attitudes," Mrs MacGibbon said.

But funding remained a major hurdle and she said the organisation was in the process of downsizing from 1.05 full-time equivalents (FTEs) to 0.6 FTEs to make more savings. Course fees had been raised but CES was reluctant to increase them too much above inflation because it deterred students.

Some students were already paying off fees by instalments.

Course fees covered the cost of tutors and materials but did not cover administration costs.

Mrs MacGibbon said a $30,000 funding boost from council would be a huge help, which would add to the funding received from UCOL and other funding streams.

"But without that $30,000 we'd have to consider closing our doors," she said.

Last year CES received $4400 from the council's contestable community grants scheme.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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