Minister monitoring new college fees

Fees increasing above 2% cap for colleges and universities must be for new services, Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson says

Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson

New fees at B.C. colleges and universities are being monitored to ensure that new services are being offered and are worth the money, Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson says.

Wilkinson was responding to NDP questions about college administrators and student societies reporting increased fees appearing on student tuition bills this year. NDP education critic Kathy Corrigan said the ministry has found a way around its policy that increases to tuition and mandatory fees are capped at two per cent per year.

Corrigan said the new fees will cost Selkirk College students $144 more per year for two-semester programs, and Vancouver Island University students will see $188 in additional fees.

Selkirk College increased its fees 4.5 per cent to cover costs of a career portal to match up students with employers. Wilkinson said employer services and co-op placement fees are typical of new services provided by colleges and universities, as the province moves to improve employment links for post-secondary education.

“We’ve told the institutions, colleges and universities, that they have to be able to justify those fees by showing benefits to students,” Wilkinson said. “We’re monitoring that on an ongoing basis.”

He said students and student societies will be surveyed at the end of the current term to see if they received useful service for their fees.

NDP critics pointed to a November newsletter from North Island College president John Bowman, describing a “new interpretation” of the policy on fees.

After the debate in the B.C. legislature, the deputy minister of advanced education released a letter to all post-secondary students to clarify the tuition cap policy. It was introduced in 2005 and extended in 2007 to include “institutional and program mandatory fees.

“For new programs, boards establish the tuition amount for the first year, and the two per cent limit applies thereafter,” the letter states.