The cost of a college education in Prince George just got higher.
The College of New Caledonia board of governors approved an average 35 per cent increase to tuition fees, effective May 1, at their monthly board meeting Friday afternoon.
“With this 35 per cent we will be able to balance our budget for the year,” says college finance director Penny Fahlman. “It will be our first balanced budget since 94/’95. Without the tuition increase we would have a deficit of $800,000.”
The college had been facing an annual deficit of $1.2 million, plus the loss of $1.8 million in government contracts as a result of provincial cutbacks.
The tuition increase raises the average cost of a year of University Transfer arts from $1,111 to $1,500. UT Science jumps from $1,530 per year to $2,067.
The college also imposed a $900 maximum per semester fee on most programs, excluding career technical business courses which, for some programs, have jumped as much as 49 per cent, as is the case with Computer Information Systems which now costs $1,980 per year.
Vocational programs that charged on a weekly or monthly basis have been standardized to a weekly rate of $42, except welding, which will be charged at a rate of $52 per week.
Veronica Murphy of the CNC Student Association spoke at the meeting against the tuition increase, arguing that it will result in higher debt loads for students, decreased access for lower-income students and lower grades as students are forced to work multiple part-time jobs.
“We are very concerned at the attempt being made to find an immediate solution to a problem that has gone on for several years,” she says.
Murphy asked that the board consider investing part of the college budget in increased on-campus employment for students, increased contributions to bursaries and improved student assistance programs.
CNC president Terry Weninger said that increasing aid for students would be a part of the college’s budget when it comes before the board at their May meeting.
“Some of those very things have been built into the proposal and budget,” he says.
CNC Faculty Association president George Davison says staff at the college oppose the increase and would even be more accepting of further staff reductions than increased fees. The association also suggested developing a forgivable loan program, such as is available for medical professionals.
“We don’t think the most vulnerable should be forced to pay any more in tuition,” he says. “This seems to be an easy grab for revenue… I don’t think too many alternatives have been examined.”
One member of CNC’s board Fran Miller voted against the motion to increase fees.
“We’re offloading too much of this to students without having alternative measures in place as a safety net for students impacted by these increases.”
Also included in the increase is a $10 increase in the cost of computer accounts. Continuing education and international education will remain free of charge, as will college and career prep courses offered to high school students.
With the increase CNC is still $100 below the average of $1,600 per year for UT programs at comparable two-year colleges in B.C.