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Okanagan College raises tuition and parking fees, slashes 16 staff positions

Addressing a $2.26-million shortfall in Okanagan College’s budget for the coming year will mean staff reductions, modest student fee increases and belt-tightening across the $92.5-million operation.

The college’s Board of Governors passed the 2012-13 budget today. It results in up to 16 positions being eliminated, cuts in supply and auxiliary staffing budgets, increased parking fees and an across-the-board two per cent tuition increase for students.

In what was an objective for the board,  none of the college’s programs will be cut as a result of the budget decisions, noted college board chair Lance Kayfish.

“This was a very challenging year and involved some difficult decisions,” said Kayfish. “We’ve taken a balanced approach to minimizing staff and service reductions as well as finding ways to generate revenue opportunities while leaving our programming intact.”

Okanagan College has not received an increase in provincial funding to cover inflationary costs for the past five years, noted Kayfish. In the past three years alone the college has had to absorb more than $6 million in inflationary and other costs.

In the last seven years, Okanagan College has only once implemented an across-the-board tuition fee increase. In the last two years, it only increased tuition on programs with fees that were at or below the provincial average.

As a result of today’s decision, a full-time student taking a business administration program will see a tuition increase of $77.60 while their counterparts in first-year university arts will pay $61.57 more tuition for the year. A plumbing apprenticeship student faces a $13.52 hike for the year.

Parking fees at Okanagan College haven’t been raised in 15 years. Two semesters’ parking in 2012-13 will increase to $143 from $90. The new rates will still be lower than those at most other post-secondary institutions in B.C.

The college will also introduce a fee-for-printing program, charging 10 cents a page. Until now, students have been able to print for free. Years ago, photocopying charges were introduced but as technology and practices changed, demand for printing has increased.

“In addition to helping balance the budget, changes in parking and printing fees align closely with the college’s sustainability goals and are intended to better reflect the real costs of those services,” explained Kayfish.

The college is discussing the pending position reductions with employee groups, conscious of wanting to minimize effects on individuals.

“Of the 16 positions we’ve identified for reduction, at least nine will be through attrition or retirements,” said Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton. “The others will be layoffs.”

Okanagan College currently has about 1,100 staff.

Despite the challenges the shortfall presented, the board found opportunities for positive growth in the 2012-13 budget. They include the creation of a director of research and business and community development—a self-funded position that will generate revenue in areas such as applied research, business services and contract training.

The budget also provides increased funding for student bursaries, an increase in the number of business courses offered, as well as a provision for minimum wage increases, which will maintain the number of employment opportunities for students at Okanagan College.

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