Northland's only tertiary arts course must be saved, the region's economic development leader says.
Northtec in Whangarei plans to stop teaching the Visual Arts degree course unless 10 more students enrol in the next 10 days.
But the manager of Northland Inc David Wilson said artists were vital to society and the region's economy.
He said a city about to build the unique Hundertwasser art centre should not be closing the door on local talent.
"Visitors really want to know about our place and our people," he said.
"And if we don't have artists, who will actually produce that?"
Mr Wilson said any perception that arts degrees did not lead to work was incorrect.
"Art graduates go into all sorts of fields these days, like digital, design, film and advertising," he said.
Mr Wilson said he understood that tertiary institutions were under pressure to meet budgets and make courses pay for themselves.
"But I also feel that we lose the arts at our peril," he said.
He said many talented young Northland people could not afford to study in Auckland.
Northec arts graduate Linda Munn agreed.
The Northland woman is one of three who designed the tino rangatiratanga flag in 1989.
She said being encouraged to study at the Whangarei polytech had been the making of her career and others deserved the same chance.
"Our young people won't go on to further their education if they have to travel to Auckland," she said.
"There's too much poverty, it's too hard for them to live; it's real silliness that if you live in Kaitaia, you can't go and learn the fundamentals of art. You have to go away and our young people won't cope so they just stay home go, maybe on benefits," Ms Munn said.
Northtec Arts tutor Faith McManus, said the course had to have 25 students enrolling this year and at this point it was 10 short of a future.
The deadline for the enrolment target is 5 February.
The Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the provision of high quality vocational training and tertiary education was important for regional development.
"This Government has inherited a system that is badly underfunded and under serious strain. I've asked the TEC to look into how the system operates because I want better and more sustainable outcomes for local students and businesses," he said.