Fleming College suspends series of environmental programs in wake of international student caps

Fleming College cuts
Fleming College has campuses in Peterborough, Lindsay, Cobourg and Haliburton, although Lindsay’s School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences may see the largest impact, as it houses nearly half of the courses shelved. Photo Credit: JHVEPhoto, stock.adobe.com

Fleming College, a well-known environmental studies hub in Ontario, says it has suspended 29 programs, ranging from ecological restoration to environmental technician, as it deals with the financial fallout of governmental adjustments to international student enrolments and the educational private partnerships that bolstered those enrolments.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced in January that temporary stabilization measures will be in place for two years and result in a 35% decrease in international enrolments for 2024.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Marc Miller, called the previous international student framework “a system that has become so lucrative that it has opened a path for its abuse.” He suggested that some educational institutions have significantly increased international intakes to drive revenues, leading to more students arriving in Canada without the support needed to succeed, ultimately placing stress on housing and health care. 

“The related significant reduction to our budget has had a profound impact on college operations,” noted Fleming College President, Maureen Adamson, in a statement that indicates her school may see as much as a 50% drop in September for international student enrolment.

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Adamson says it’s a drop that could see Fleming go from 3,800 international students down to 1,600, resulting in some $40 million in lost revenue. Notably, Adamson points out that some 75% of international students arrive at her school already holding a degree. 

Fleming College has campuses in Peterborough, Lindsay, Cobourg and Haliburton, although Lindsay’s School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences may see the largest impact, as it houses nearly half of the courses shelved.

Following the program suspensions, Fleming College announced that of the 29 programs on hiatus for admission in fall of 2024, some have low projected domestic enrollment, others have zero projected domestic enrollment, and other programs are no longer financially sustainable with enrolment levels that do not cover the cost of delivery.

“The cancellation of these programs is particularly troubling given the current and future employment trends,” retired Fleming College professor Anne van Warmerdam  wrote to ES&E Magazine in a statement. “There is an unprecedented focus on the environment and climate change, making these programs essential for preparing the workforce needed to address these critical issues.” 

Federal officials said the number of new study permit applications that will be accepted in 2025 will be reassessed at the end of this year. The cap won’t apply to students for master’s and doctoral programs or in elementary and secondary schools.

Fleming continues to offer almost 100 programs to current and prospective students. 

A series of online petitions to reverse the program suspensions have emerged following Fleming’s Board of Governors’ decision on April 23. 

Some of the suspended programs include: 

  • Ecological Restoration (ERJ)
  • Ecosystem Management Technology (EMX, EPX, EPD, EMD)
  • Emergency Management (EMP)
  • Environmental Technician (ETN)
  • Environmental Technology (ETY)
  • Environmental Visual Communication (EVC)
  • GAS Environmental & Natural Resource Studies (GSN)
  • GIS Applications (GIA) & GIS Applications Online (GAO)
  • GIS Cartographic (GC)
  • Tree Care Techniques (UF)
  • Urban Forestry Technician (UFT)
  • Waste Resource Management (SWM)
  • Conservation and Environmental Law Enforcement (NRL)

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  1. The canceled programs are backbone of Environmetal and Earth science sectors. This news is really painful and unfortunate. The concerned government should rethink and commence these very important series of programs.

  2. On April 24th, the leadership at Fleming College made a decision that sent shockwaves through the educational and environmental communities: the suspension of 29 programs across the college, with the most significant impact felt at the School of Environment and Natural Resource Studies (SENRS) at the Frost Campus in Lindsay, Ontario. Programs like Environmental Technology, Fish & Wildlife, Ecosystem Management, Environmental Restoration (a joint degree with Trent University), Conservation and Environmental Law Enforcement, Urban Forestry, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS )have all been halted. This decision was made without any consultation with faculty, staff, or the program advisory committees, who could have highlighted the critical importance of these programs to the environmental and natural resource sectors.

    As a professor who has proudly taught in the Environmental Technology program for 29 years, I am deeply disheartened by this abrupt decision. Our graduates have made significant contributions, securing positions with government agencies at all levels, consulting firms, private industries, and non-government organizations (NGOs). Many have furthered their education and risen to management roles, where they now hire new graduates from our programs. The unique educational experience at Frost Campus, characterized by hands-on training, field trips, and real-world equipment usage, prepares students exceptionally well for the demands of the environmental sector.

    The decision to suspend these programs was not only unexpected but also poorly communicated. Just days before the announcement, faculty were actively participating in the school’s Open House, and some were away with students at field school, engaging in the practical learning experiences that define our curriculum. Despite increasing enrolment for the upcoming year, program information has mysteriously vanished from the school network, raising concerns about transparency and the rationale behind these suspensions.

    Environmental and natural resource management fields are more critical than ever as we confront the escalating challenges of climate change. The Ontario Premier’s recent declaration that Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and in-demand programs will be prioritized makes this decision even more perplexing. There is a glaring disconnect between the government’s stated priorities and the college’s actions. The job market is ripe with opportunities for our graduates, a testament to the essential role they play in various sectors.
    The suspension process mandated by the Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Act 2002 was not followed, and the lack of transparency in the decision-making process is troubling. The broader community, including those who hire our graduates and the graduates themselves, must voice their concerns. I urge them to contact the Premier, the Minister of Colleges and Universities, their local Members of Provincial Parliament (MPP), and the Ontario Ombudsman to investigate this decision.

    The impact of these suspensions extends beyond the environmental industry, affecting the entire community. Many students live in the City of Kawartha Lakes, contributing to the local economy. The ripple effect of these program suspensions will be felt far and wide, both economically and environmentally.

    In conclusion, the suspension of vital programs at Fleming College’s Frost Campus is a shortsighted decision that undermines the future of our environment and the economic well-being of our community. We must rally together to reverse this decision, ensuring that future generations of students can continue to benefit from the exceptional education provided at SENRS. Our environment, our economy, and our future depend on it.

    Anne van Warmerdam, H.B.Sc.
    Professor (retired)
    Environmental Technology
    Fleming College


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