Denesiuk re-elected as college board chair

Two important decisions came out of the Okanagan College board of governors meeting Tuesday, starting with a rise in tuition.

The board voted to increase tuition for domestic students by two per cent in the coming year. International student tuition will increase by five per cent.

Under the provincial government policy regulating tuition, those are the maximum allowable fee increases. For international student tuition, OC remains 9th in fees to of 15 post-secondary institutions across B.C.

For a university transfer arts student taking a full load of lecture courses, the increase will amount to an additional $65.28 per year, rising to a total of about $3,342.54. For a student taking a six-month (24-week) electrical foundation program, tuition would increase by $51.73 to $2,638.29.

A year’s arts tuition for an international student increases more than $600 to $12,978 from $12,360.

College president Jim Hamilton said they are trying to find that “sweet spot” between maximizing potential revenue from international students with offering an education experience they feel is worth paying for.

The board also re-elected Connie Denesiuk as board chair and Chris Derickson as vice-chair in a unanimous vote.

Denesiuk, a Summerland resident, joined the college board in 2012 after serving a three-year term as president of the B.C. School Trustees Association, along with a 19-year stint as an Okanagan Skaha School District trustee, nine of which she served as the board chair. Derickson is a councillor with the Westbank First Nation, and works as a business consultant for First Nations communities. His tenure with the college board of Governors began in 2014.

“I’m proud to be here and proud of the team we have,” said Denesiuk, who is also pursuing a Master of Arts in Leadership degree at Royal Roads University. “I have felt it’s really important to engage our entire board in the conversation, that each of our board members are heard from on issues we face in order to make the best decisions for the college.”

Denesiuk said the board is reluctant to add to cost for students to attend the college, that providing access to campus programs is an ongoing concern.

“We don’t want to see students turned away because they can’t afford it,” Denesiuk said, adding that while the college is mandated by law to submit a balanced budget to the provincial government each year, she said a post-secondary institution is about more than that.

“It’s important to note that it’s not just about looking for efficiencies and ways to bring forward a balanced budget, but also to seek out innovative new programs. We want to continue to provide exciting and relevant programming for our students to prepare them for the future.

“We want to add to the college, we just don’t want to remove.”

Denesiuk added that while post-secondary student associations continue to lobby the provincial government to increase core funding, OC speaks though the collective membership voice of the B.C. Association of Institutes and Universities advocating for fiscal funding issues.

“It’s an issue that we never lose sight of,” said Hamilton.

“There are unfortunately not many options for us to increase revenues to offset funding shortfalls and tuition increases are one of them. But we don’t take having to do that lightly.”