CNC faculty opposes fee hikes

Faculty at the College of New Caledonia are objecting to a move toward tuition for previously free high school level courses.

On Friday the Board of Governors decided it would vote at its next meeting, Feb. 27, whether start charging tuition for the upgrades after the Ministry of Education cut funding to certain courses for adults who have their Dogwood Diploma. It would affect CNC's College and Career Preparation program.

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The Faculty Association of CNC issued a release calling the proposed fee an added barrier to education for students that need prerequisites for programs like nursing, health, trades or the arts and sciences.

"Adding more tuition before they can even enter their tuition-charging goal program will set them further back on their educational and career path," said David Rourke, the association's president.

In December the Ministry of Education announced starting May 2015 it will stop subsidizing graduated adults to upgrade a list of 34 high school courses, like English 12, Chemistry 12 and Math 12.

It reversed a September 2008 policy that gave all students access to tuition-free Adult Basic Education, or ABE, at public post-secondary institutions starting January 2008.

Institutions can now charge up to $1,600 per full-time semester, according to the association release.

"These students are particularly vulnerable, because their incomes are low, they may have heavy family responsibilities, and many are juggling low-wage part-time jobs on top of classes," said Rourke. "Many CCP students are Aboriginal and they will be disproportionately affected."

According to the CNC's most recent numbers, in the 2010/2011 school year, 795 of 4,771 students - or 16 per cent - self-identified as Aboriginal. These numbers did not include continuing education courses.

The strongly worded press release also took issue with the government's Skills for Jobs approach, saying "putting up more barriers for students trying to get into skills training makes no sense."

School District 57 also offers adult education courses, but after the changes were announced superintendent Brian Pepper said he didn't yet know if its Centre for Learning Alternatives would start charging tuition. That would be decided with the March budget, he said.

The change in government funding for graduated adults came on the heels of another announcement for grants for low-income adult learners. More will be eligible, the release said, as students 10 per cent above the previous income cutoff will be can access a grant to cover half their tuition. B.C. still offers a list of 26 foundation courses, like English and Math 1 to 7, for free to graduated adults.

CNC's student union is planning a public forum on Feb. 5 to discuss the proposed changes. It will be at CNC's Gathering Place, from 5 to 7 p.m.

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