NorthTec will have to cut its coat to suit its cloth or increase the costs to students, says Whangarei mayor Sheryl Mai.
Ms Mai met twice this past week with visual arts staff and NorthTec chief executive Mark Ewen after public concern about a proposed restructure at Northland's largest tertiary education provider.
"I've now got a better understanding of where NorthTec is financially," Ms Mai said.
NorthTec proposes scrapping Whangarei courses in visual arts, sport and recreation, tourism, business administration, computing and foundation studies, putting the Rawene campus into recess and closing some Kerikeri courses.
"I do share the sense that for Northland, our whole arts and culture is an important part of our identity. The sense I got was that this recalibration is necessary, we have to do something, and we are calling for feedback,'' Ms Mai said.
"It's vital that people make submissions to these proposals.
"There will be some tough calls to come with this. It's a case of you cut your cloth accordingly or you increase your costs to students."
NorthTec's financial situation is worsening despite increasing student numbers, and it faces a $4.5 million loss.
Ms Mai suggested some of that money was going on courses that could be taught in other educational forums.
"I guess the whole education sector needs to be shaping career-path learning," Ms Mai said.
Some NorthTec courses were highly thought of on a national tertiary level and ended in a qualification that directly led to jobs, while others provided "potential to learn more or get work", Ms Mai said.
NorthTec is at a philosophical and practical crossroads that is forcing the institution to re-evaluate what tertiary education is, should offer and at what cost.
A document, called The Case for Change, given to staff two weeks ago, outlined that 75 jobs could be cut across Northland, while 39 new positions would be created.
NorthTec has reiterated since then its task is to fund courses that are in demand, lead to jobs and are financially viable under current funding.
The Case for Change calls for scrapping Whangarei courses in visual arts, sport and recreation, tourism, business administration, computing and foundation studies, putting the Rawene campus into recess and closing some Kerikeri courses.
"We are absolutely, acutely aware that this process is causing anxiety and heartache across the board," NorthTec spokesman Peter Heath said.
"We're asking people to read the recommendations and make submissions."
He said the two fundamentals issues behind the restructure plan were the need for student demand to ensure viability and the need for appropriate funding given Northland's specific needs.
But post-graduation employment, educational quality, alignment with industry and national tertiary standards, regional economic growth strategies, and forecast future needs were also integral.
"NorthTec has to measure what its got against what it needs," Mr Heath said.
"And it's got to be guided by what the community is telling it."
People have until November 27 to make submissions, with the polytechnic due to make a final decision on December 6.