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Editorial: Colleges must stay connected to community

Union will be official July 1.
Parkland College will soon be part of a bigger entity through a merger with Cumberland College. (Fille Photo)

YORKTON -  It was reported several months ago that Cumberland College and Parkland College were moving toward a full merger and it has now been announced that effort will move forward taking effect July 1.

That the two colleges were interested in a merger wasn’t exactly surprising considering they have been operating as a coalition since 2019 through a shared CEO and Board of Governors.

A full merger would seem to have been a logical step at least from the perspective of those involved.

While the merger was a local initiated effort, it did need a stamp of approval from the province, and that was recently received.

That too was not surprising given this government’s obvious interest in amalgamating services, at least in some areas.

The most obvious effort by the province was to move to a single health board rather than a series of regional ones.

That effort should be saving the system millions of dollars though unified decisions that allow for province wide purchasing of supplies and services and broad-based recruiting efforts, although whether those savings have been realized isn’t exactly clear.

And, of course there is the other side of such efforts, the disconnect with local communities.

When there was still a regional health board for the local area there were directors the public knew, or at least had relative easy access to discuss concerns with.

It’s highly likely if you went to a junior hockey game in Yorkton or Melville and randomly asked 100 fans to name someone on the provincial health board it is unlikely more than a few would know a name, and it is highly likely many might not know the entity exists.

In a world of increased connectedness in the case of health, the move to a single entity in terms of a health board has made it harder for local communities to connect with those making decisions.

While the college merger is far smaller in scale, remaining accessible to communities is important, and the entity starts out connecting communities that rarely have been. Humboldt and Yorkton are major communities in the new college region, two communities with very little natural connectedness.

Interim President and CEO, Alison Dubreuil, has noted that the merger will better position both colleges to serve their learners and communities through shared resources, increased partnership opportunities and the development of new programming.

That is of course crucial for the college to be relevant, but it is building a new entity among communities that have limited natural connections, and that must be realized moving forward so the new college can build a new community that is as effective as they hope and still has the capacity for local communities to connect to it.