UNBC seeks financial support from PRRD

University of Northern BC officials gave a brief history of initiatives offered in the Peace region on Thursday, with a request that the regional district consider supporting future programs through bursaries and grants.

Ian Lindsay, director of development at UNBC, and admitted the university's history in the area has been small, but said the school would like to do more.

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"Thirty years ago we were the first university in the north. We're no longer special," said Lindsay, adding he believes UNBC still serves its purpose and boosts the economy by $200 million a year.

The university's biggest success is its medical program, Lindsay said, noting many graduates continue to return to Northern B.C. Thirty family doctors and 14 specialists have graduated through the Northern Medical Trust Program.

A nursing program in partnership with Northern Lights College is set to launch September 2020 at the Fort St. John campus, with 16 nurses expected to graduate every two years. Lindsay urged the regional district board to consider offering further support of the program through bursaries and grants.

"We know that there's a shortage of nurses, and we know it's getting worse," Lindsay said, adding the program was needed over five years.

The regional district does already offer a number of annual health care scholarships for students studying to become nurses or to work a medical field.

Mayor Lori Ackerman expressed concern that graduates will use funds from the Northern Medical Trust Program to move to warmer climates and urban centres in the Lower Mainland.

"I will support a local bursary, but not the Northern Medical program until it is moved that funds created for the north stay in the north," said Ackerman, noting grants and bursaries are already offered through Northern Lights College.

Lindsay confirmed that the Trust has been used in the past by students to leave Prince George, and to help students pay for rent in other areas of the province. He also noted that bursaries and grants have allowed for students without the financial means to become nurses.

Email reporter Tom Summer at tsummer@ahnfsj.ca.

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