By Riverine Herald

CAMPASPE College of Adult Education is on the verge of closure.

For the past 39 years CCAE has provided Echuca-Moama and district with education and training in a wide variety of courses.

Now its general manager Karen Hagan is making a desperate appeal to that community to support it with enrolments.

If it cannot get numbers up, and soon, Ms Hagan said it was inevitable the doors would close and the school’s 20 staff be out of work.

“We are local, have smaller classes and dedicated staff to make your learning journey an experience of a lifetime – your lifetime,” she said.

“As a community based, not-for-profit education provider, we give back to the community by offering low-cost courses and providing a convenient, central location.

“To ensure we are around for the long haul, support us by enrolling locally, get your friends and families to support us too.”

The Victorian Government is not only disinterested in the fate of the school, it has all but guaranteed its failure with the announcement of free TAFE courses starting in 2019.

From 1 January 2019, students who are eligible for Victorian Government-subsidised training will not pay course tuition fees for an initial 20 priority non‑apprenticeship courses.

A further 10 priority courses will be confirmed following consultation with industry, in time for students to enrol for the 2019 training year.

“The government has a TAFE-only policy and that decision is having an immediate impact on our student enrolments,” Ms Hagan added.

“Our courses cost between $300 and $700 a year, which is incredibly cheap, but our enrolments are still going down as people turn to the free TAFE option,” she said.

“While we haven’t had to let any staff go yet, we haven’t replaced any who leave either.

“We are, I guess, the unintended consequences, the collateral damage, of the government providing a 100 per cent subsidy to get people through the doors of its own schools.”

CCAE provides training up to diploma standard.

Ms Hagan said if CCAE does close its doors Echuca-Moama will be forced to rely on private providers.

“And let’s be honest, they come and go, or there will be TAFE, and it frequently transfers courses to Bendigo,” she said.

“Adult education is giving people the opportunity to continually participate in lifelong learning – learning that also contributes to the social, cultural and economic development of the community.

“A community as big as ours needs alternatives and CCAE is a really good one but we can’t go on without your support.

“Right now, today, we are not financially viable and the college is in crisis, with closure a distinct possibility.”