Thompson Rivers University has given notice that they will not be renewing their regional office leases in both Barriere and Clearwater and the licenses will be terminated effective Dec. 31.
The university also has regional offices in 100 Mile House, Ashcroft and Cache Creek, as well as Lilloet and Lytton.
TRU has stated a lack of enrollment in in-person classes has left the rented facilities unused and that the closure is a temporary cost-saving measure. The classes have seen a significant drop in students, from 168 in 2018/19 to just nine students in 2020/21.
“Keeping the physical space is no longer viable, particularly when we consider the budget pressures TRU is facing due to COVID-19, no different than other sectors,” said Baldev Pooni, dean of trades and technology, said in a written statement to the Times.
District of Clearwater Mayor Merlin Blackwell said in a Facebook post that it all sounds too familiar.
“This is hard for me to believe and trust,” he wrote. “I fear that once it’s gone, it won’t return. We, local government, have seen this pattern happen over and over again, with government offices and community services shrinking back into the city, in many cases, disappearing altoghether from our town.”
The Clearwater regional office offers credit and non-credit courses, as well as provincially recognized certificates and work-related training. First aid, health and safety, trades and technology and foresty are a few of the courses offered.
The coordinator position for the Clearwater region was never renewed after the previous coodinator retired about four years ago. Blackwell said TRU’s service in the district had been declining for years and when they merged the two positions, primarily based in Barriere, “it took a turn for the worst.”
Universities have moved most classes online since the pandemic began, and it seems TRU is looking to do that same with the regional offices.
District of Barriere Mayor Ward Stamer told the Times that while a local coordinator is beneficial, he is sympathetic to TRU’s situation.
“Ultimately, I would like to have a local counsellor here,” said Stamer. “I think there’s benefits to that, but at the same time, I can be a little sympathetic to TRU and what they’re trying to determine what their business model is and what makes sense in a regional perspective.”