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North Island College increasing tuition fees to maintain programming

Tuition at North Island College will increase by two per cent next year, as the college works to maintain its programming.
The college's board of governors approved the bylaw increasing tuition Wednesday.
North Island College (NIC) has not yet heard from the Ministry of Advanced Education what the allowable increase will be, but the indications are that it will be a two-per-cent limit, as in previous years, explained college president Jan Lindsay.
Effective for courses with start dates after Aug. 15, university transfer and career technical courses will cost $86.04 per credit, $258.12 per three-credit course, $1,290.60 per semester and $2,581.20 per year.
Practical nurse access students will pay $132.60 per credit, while trades and vocational students will pay $2,581.20 per program year.
English as a Second Language will cost $71.87 for 45-hour courses and $143.76 for 90- to 135-hour courses.
Chris Castro, a student representative to the board who also sits on the North Island Students' Union, voted against the two-per-cent increase.
He also suggested a one-per-cent or 1.5-per-cent increase, but the rest of the board did not support it.
"I think it would be great if we stood out and showed students that we care more about them than money," he said. "It hurts for students."
While he understand the need for an increase, Castro felt standing out against increasing tuition fees could encourage more students to come to NIC.
Jasmine Badrin, the board's other student representative, pointed out that NIC students are "very fortunate" because they pay a lot less tuition, and they receive high-quality education.
She told the rest of the board that, in speaking to other students, the problem is there is no placement and that if the college could look at building relationships with businesses and organizations that will give students an opportunity to work in their field, that could be a way to attract new students.
Lindsay was sympathetic to students' concerns, but she felt it was important to realize that NIC was at a certain place when the tuition policy came into play, and if the college doesn't increase each year by the amount allowed by the ministry, the gap with other institutions continues to widen.
"It's important to recognize we are the lowest of all institutions on the Island," she added. "It would be interesting to compare us provincially; I know we would be one of the lowest there, as well. "
It comes down to preserving programs.
"It has been through our budget process, one of our huge goals — and one I think we've been very successful in — that we want to protect programming for students," said Lindsay. "I recognize it's always a burden on students, but we also are trying to make sure we maintain programming here at North Island College."
Board member Don Kruyt noted that years ago, when there was a tuition freeze in B.C., he lost out on courses because the school couldn't run them.
"The budget is balanced, and if we don't pass this, we're looking at a shortfall," he said.
***
The NIC board of governors approved the draft budget for 2011-12 during the same meeting.
It is a balanced budget.
"With no increase in ministry funding and limits on tuition increases, combined with increased costs, it becomes increasingly difficult to balance the budget," Carol Baert, NIC's vice-president of finance and facilities, explained in her memo to the board. "This year, we have been able to balance the budget without program cuts, except where specific program funding was cut by the funder. We accomplished this by starting early to identify unavoidable cost pressures and to look for opportunities to reduce costs and increase revenue."
One source of increased revenue is international education, which is budgeting to contribute $200,000 of net revenue to support college operations, noted Baert.
"We also identified funds to support activities that will help accomplish the goals of the strategic plan," she wrote. "We think the final product is a strategic budget that is both achievable and fiscally sound."
The 2011-12 budget assumes that the college's base operating grant will be unchanged from 2010-11 at $21,769,139 and that tuition and fee increases will be limited to two per cent.
writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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