Rising tuition fees at Okanagan College in September is expected to translate into improved student services, says a council member of the Okanagan College Students’ Union.
Jennifer Meyer, a business degree accounting student, said the takeaway from OC Board of Governors meeting debate on the topic Thursday morning was a proposed tuition fee hike for domestic students of two per cent was not necessary to balance the budget, but it allows the college to catch up student service with a continually upward spiralling enrolment.
“It’s a difficult standpoint for the student union for on one hand we would prefer tuition rates don’t increase, but there is a need for improved student services,” Meyer said.
“The college continues to exceed enrolment targets set by the province so there is a big scramble then to provide services for those increasing number of students.”
International students will face a 5.9 per cent increase for business, arts, science and English as a Second Language courses, and a two per cent tuition increase for all other courses as recommended by the OC finance, audit and risk review committee.
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Meyer said domestic students take tuition fee increases as a given year to year, while international students are feeling stressed over the financial burden they are asked to absorb.
“If this was happening in Quebec, students would be protesting in the streets, which is far different than the reaction here,” Meyer said. “But the impact on international students is significant considering in 2017 they also had a five per cent increase in tuition costs.”
Among the student service improvements cited by Meyer are more counselling support, a full-time nurse at the Kelowna campus, affordable student housing options and tutoring services for both domestic and international students struggling with reading, writing and language issues.
Meyer said the Kelowna campus is also facing space issues because enrolment is at capacity.
“The increase in tuition is one of the mechanisms we have to keep pace with the impact of tuition on our budget and support much-needed additional services,” explained Okanagan College board chair Chris Derickson.
For a Canadian student taking a full semester of five university arts lectures, the increase will add $33.42, increasing the semester’s tuition to $1,704.73. For an international student taking the same courses, the increase will add $382.91 to a semester’s tuition, totalling $6,872.91).
Tuition for international students is higher than for domestic students because they are not supported by taxpayer funding, said Derickson.
Even with the increases, he said OC’s international tuition will be in the mid-range of those charged by other colleges in British Columbia.
“We have had requests for additional services articulated by the Okanagan College Students’ Union and I know that administration is looking closely at how the college can address those,” added Derickson.
Meyer noted that beyond tuition increases, there is some optimism the new NDP provincial government will allot more funding to post-secondary education which could help OC deal with its ongoing growth issues.
Despite the financial stresses facing the board of governors, Meyer said her education experience at the college has been positive, with her eyeing graduation this spring with an opportunity to work for the KPMG office in Kelowna.
“I’m pretty fortunate to have grown up in Kelowna, gone to (post-secondary) school here and then find a job when I graduate with a local accounting firm,” Meyer said.
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