By Chantal Braganza, Associate Editor
After 30 years of offering diploma programs in rural west Newfoundland and Labrador, the College of the North Atlantic’s journalism program is moving across the island to the province’s capital. The move is mostly spurred on by declining enrolment numbers.
“We’re located in a town of about 7,000 people,” said Frank Carroll, the program’s co-ordinator and a journalism instructor at NCA. “The demographics have changed over the years. The youth population is going down.” When he began teaching at the school 15 years ago, he said, first-year classes would on average hold about 24 students; over the past two years, first-year enrolment has been as low as six. “We believe the move will put us at the heart of the province’s media industry and with greater access to the bulk of the youth population,” he said.
Earlier this year, the school launched a version of its one-year post-graduate journalism diploma program as an online education option for students outside of the city or province to encourage enrolment. (The school also runs a two-year diploma program for non-grads.) While that online offering is still slated to launch in the fall, the entire department will move to NCA’s St. John’s location on Prince Phillip Drive by September 2016. Other arts programs at the Stephenville campus will relocate later this year.
“We just came over a program revision following consultations with students and faculty. And we’ve worked our guts out to bring out awareness with social campaigns and to get at the cutting edge of things,” said Carroll, noting the program’s development of a code of conduct for drone journalism in 2014. “So we put a lot of work into it. It’s not for lack of trying that numbers are low.”
Demographics aside, the movement to industries with greater prospects of employment is also a factor. “There’s been a movement towards the trades, especially here in Newfoundland. Especially in the oil and mining industry,” said Carroll. “Parents will phone us and ask if their son or daughter will get a job after graduation. I tell them that if you do the work and are willing to move, there’s jobs out there for you.”