Okanagan College budget needs have trumped student concerns in adoption of a two per cent domestic student tuition increase starting in the 2019 fall semester.
The tuition fee will result in $261,185 in additional tuition revenue for 2019-20 and $293,385 for ongoing years.
Curtis Morcom, OC vice-president, employee and corporate services, outlined the need for the tuition increase at the OC Board of Governors meeting on Tuesday at the Kelowna campus.
For a Canadian student taking a full semester of five university arts lectures, the increase will add $34.10, increasing the semester’s tuition to $1,738.83.
Adult Basic Education courses and English as a Second Language courses remain tuition free for domestic students.
Morcom said the provincial government has not officially set the tuition raise limit for the 2019-20 school year, but he said the education sector has been told to expect it will be capped at two per cent.
He said the increase is needed to address rising operational and capital costs at OC which are not covered by the university’s block funding allotment from the province, leading to a projected operating deficit of $500,000 for 2019-20.
A delegation from the OC Student Union said given the projected budget shortfall, “we once again feel it would be naive to ask for no increase on tuition fees for the upcoming academic year, even thought that continues to be our preferred outcome.”
In a statement to the board of governors, the OCSU called instead for improving student access and health support.
One aspect cited was the cost burden placed on international students, as any tuition fee policies imposed by the province don’t affect them.
“In B.C., tuition fees for international students have inflated by 485 per cent since 1991, although the amount at this institution is 275 per cent,”said the statement.
“At Okanagan College, we have seen fees increase between 8, 2, 5 and 5.9 per cent annually since 2014, which indicates inconsistency and unpredictability.”
OC students are part of a coalition that includes university student groups across the province who are advocating for international student tuition fee increase regulations, given that international students are capped at how many hours they can legally work to help off-set their education costs.
The OCSU also addressed the stress factor facing students, asking to keep the counsellor-to-student ratio at an acceptable rate and reinstatement of a full-time nurse on the Kelowna campus, a request that now dates back two years.
“There are 10 public post-secondary institutions in B.C. that have a nurse and/or a doctor on campus…We are falling far behind comparable institutions by failing to provide these vital services,” said the statement.
Education costs were also an issue raised regarding open education resources access as opposed to purchasing textbooks for courses.
A student testimonial on this issue was included in the OCSU submission: “During my first year I paid over $2,000 for my required textbooks. In my second year, I decided not to purchase all my textbooks and hoped I would be okay without them.
“This year I was able to use open education resources for several textbooks and it’s awesome. I was awful trying to choose between textbooks and food.”