Okanagan College to raise tuition, cut workforce

Okanagan College Students
Okanagan College Students' Union executive chairperson Tiana Gaudette appeared before the institution's board of governors Tuesday to argue against a tuition increase.
— image credit: Joe Fries/Western News

Okanagan College will raise tuition fees and cut its workforce to help balance its books.

The school’s board of governors approved a $92.8-million operating budget for 2014-15 at a meeting Tuesday in Penticton, where a pair of students' union representatives urged officials to think twice about increasing the cost of attendance.

Instead, the board voted to increase tuition fees for domestic students by two per cent and bump up the cost for international students by eight per cent.

“Okanagan College has tuition fees which are more closely related to universities than to colleges in B.C.,” said students' union executive chairperson Tiana Gaudette.

“Furthermore, Okanagan College continues to be the most expensive institution for studying when comparing academic arts to every other college in B.C.”

According to figures compiled by the Ministry of Advanced Education, tuition for a full-time academic arts student at Okanagan College was $3,203 this year. Camosun College was next most expensive at $3,093, while the average across B.C. was $2,706.

With the increase, the cost at Okanagan College next year will rise to $3,267 for  domestic students and $11,880 for international students.

The hikes, which are expected to add $600,000 to the college’s bottom line, are among a variety of measures the institution adopted to help close a $3.2-million gap in its finances.

“Practically everything that could go wrong in terms of a budget situation did at the beginning of this year,” vice-president of finance Bob Eby told the board.

The shortfall was due mainly to a projected $1.4 million increase to employee wages and benefits, an expected $1.2 million decline in tuition fees, plus discontinuation of government funding for some skills training and language programs.

Besides increasing tuition fees, the college will also save money by reducing its workforce by five full-time equivalent positions through layoffs and attrition, and trimming its contingency fund from $500,000 to $200,000.

“Overall, we have really reduced the flexibility in the budget,” said Eby.

Gaudette said afterwards she understands the difficult financial position facing the college, but that increased tuition fees and other risings costs also make for a difficult financial position for students.

“It can often be a deterrent to students who look at these prices and look at the increases and may not attend,” she said.



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