Students and staff will pay for Okanagan College’s latest budget shortfall.
On Tuesday, the college’s board of governors approved a $92.6 million operating budget for 2012-13 that will see tuition costs climb two per cent, 16 staff positions eliminated, and fee increases for copying and parking.
A report to the board cited static provincial post-secondary funding and rising inflation costs as the main drivers behind the budgetary pressure.
“We’ve taken a balanced approach to minimizing staff and service reductions as well as finding ways to generate revenue opportunities while leaving our programming intact,” board chair Lance Kayfish said in a press release.
Ross Saunders, a student union executive from Penticton who also sits on the board, said the school’s money troubles “clearly show inadequate funding the colleges are getting from the provincial government.”
According to the college, the tuition increase, only the second across-the-board hike in eight years, will cost a full-time business administration student an extra $77.60 per year, while a first-year university arts student will have to cough up an additional $61.57 annually. A plumbing apprentice will pay $13.52 more.
That’s expected to bring the school additional revenue of $340,000. Saunders said the relatively small tuition bump might not scare off students in the thick of their schooling, but it could turn away those just contemplating a post-secondary career who may fear continued annual hikes.
Saunders, a second-year criminology student, was particularly critical of an increase in parking fees, which will see the price of a two-semester pass climb from $90 to $143. He said the board is “hiding under the sustainability flag” with that move.
“People need to drive, especially here in Penticton where the transit service isn’t all that great.”
Finally, it will now cost students 10 cents a page to print from public computers on campus. Saunders has already heard feedback from nursing students, some of whom have to print off 90-page course syllabi.
“Not all of them can afford laptops to bring in and look at the syllabus. A lot of that stuff they need with them all the time, and they have to print it,” he said. “There’s no other option for them right now.”
On the labour front, the elimination of 16 staff positions is expected to save the college about $700,000. The budget report notes that seven of those jobs are currently vacant or will become so through retirements. The college has about 1,100 employees, and spokesperson Christine Ulmer said just one support staff position at the Penticton campus will be lost as a result of the move.
Chris Bradshaw, a spokesperson for the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, said local representatives expect to be briefed Monday on the cuts.
He puts the blame squarely at the feet of government.
“This is a time when the province needs to be investing in post-secondary education to make sure we have the skilled workers available when the economy fully recovers, and the government’s response has been to continue to cut funding,” Bradshaw said. “And that’s unfortunate.”
Other items of note contained in the budget report: The college will no longer accept credit cards for tuition payments, although plastic will still be accepted for continuing studies fees and at book stores. This is expected to save the institution $190,000 per year. Campus health services, billed as a health promotion and prevention service, will be eliminated. Some referrals will still be available through counselling. The board of governors trimmed its budget by five per cent and will move to paperless meetings.
B.C. student loan default rates at public post-secondary schools
1. Justice Institute of B.C.: 1.8%
2. University of British Columbia: 3.7%
3. Royal Roads University: 4.6%
4. University of Victoria: 4.7%
5. Simon Fraser University: 5.1%
6. BCIT: 5.9%
7. University of Northern B.C.: 8.9%
8. Vancouver Community College: 9.2%
9. Emily Carr University of Art & Design: 9.4%
10. Capilano University: 11%
11. Kwantlen Polytechnic University: 11.2%
12. Okanagan College: 11.6%
13. Camosun College: 12.1%
14. Thompson Rivers University: 12.8%
15. Douglas College: 13%
16. University of the Fraser Valley: 13%
17. Langara College: 14.6%
18. Selkirk College: 15.2%
19. Vancouver Island University: 16.3%
20. College of the Rockies: 18.2%
21. North Island College: 20.1%
22. Northern Lights College: 21.5%
23. College of New Caledonia: 23%
24. TRU Open Learning: 33.3%
25. Northwest Community College: 38.4%
26. Nicola Valley Institute of Technology: 53%
Source: Ministry of Advanced Education
Data is for 2009, the most recent year available, and is based on B.C. student loan borrowers who began repayment in the previous five years.