CNC tuition increase draws ire of students, faculty

The faculty union at the College of New Caledonia is calling for the college board to rescind a November decision to raise student tuition, while the college students' union believes the hike will create a barrier to affordable education.

The college board made the decision to raise the tuition by two per cent at a meeting on Nov. 24. The increases would take effect next fall. Since 2005, the B.C. government has restricted colleges and universities from raising tuition by more than the rate of inflation, which is pegged at two per cent.

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The agenda for the meeting said the tuition rise would contribute approximately $120,000 to the base operating budget of the college.

This same agenda reported that the 2017-18 operating grant received by the college from the provincial government was $29,291,076. This represented an increase of 3.6 per cent from that of 2015-16, the most recent year available on the Department of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour website. Over the past year, domestic student enrolment has increased by eight per cent, according to CNC president Henry Reiser. International student enrolment rose by 25 per cent.

According to Reiser, the tuition increases are necessary in order to offset increased costs facing the college.

"Faculty salaries are going up and our operational salaries are going up," Reiser said.

"With the two per cent increase in tuition, it is still the second lowest tuition in the province."

But Bill Deutch, president of the Faculty Association for the College of New Caledonia, believes the college is placing an unfair burden on students.

"I've got students, as an example, they don't come to school because they can't afford gas for their vehicles," Deutch said.

"Some of these students have to work two or three jobs just to pay for their tuition."

Many students also pay additional ancillary fees to the college, such as supplies for trades students, according to Deutch. He believes the college should rescind the tuition increase, and should instead find other ways of reducing costs. He said the college had a budget surplus over the last two years, and that compensation for administrators has been increasing.

According to numbers obtained from administration of CNC, salary costs for administration have increased by $2,028,834 between 2002 and 2016, but salary costs for faculty increased by $4,969,195 during the same time period. Total compensation increased by $12,069,000.

Harman Dandiwal, an organizer with the College of New Caledonia Students' Union, said the tuition increases add to other rising costs for students.

"There are so many other expenses that are increasing every year. There's increases in rent, there's housing issues, living expenses are going up," Dandiwal said. "An increase in tuition fees just adds to the student debt burden."

Dandiwal, an international student who graduated from CNC in 2016 with a diploma in business management, said his two year program initially left him with a $30,000 student debt load.

"It's been really hard," Dandiwal said with a laugh.

International students are not eligible for low-interest government student loans. Dandiwal said he took two private loans from banks in his home country of India, and worked overnight jobs while in school to pay off the loans. "I paid a lot of interest," he said.

According to the B.C. Federation of Students, B.C.'s average tuition fees have risen 212 per cent since 1990. Dandiwal concedes that the ultimate responsibility for CNC's decision may lie with the B.C. government. Funding for post-secondary institutions like CNC has not kept up with rising costs, he said.

For Reiser, next year's tuition fee increase is necessary in order to maintain the quality of programs offered at CNC's six campuses.

"We try to ensure the costs for the students are reflected in the services that are delivered for these students," he said.

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