Monday, December 11, 2017

Camosun student starts petition protesting potential tuition raise

February 17, 2016 by Adam Marsh, student editor

The tuition for Camosun’s Civil Engineering Technology program will increase above the two percent allowed for an existing program if the Ministry of Advanced Education deems it as being “new,” and one Camosun student has started a petition in protest of this potential increase.

The Ministry of Advanced Education has a two-percent tuition increase cap in place for “amendments to existing programs,” and Camosun Civil Engineering Technology student Blair Roche feels that’s what the changes in question should be categorized as. He says his petition now has over 80 signatures; there is also a Facebook group, Camosun CIVL Oppression 2016, discussing the issue.

Roche calls the increase an “outrage.”

“It’s staggering,” says Roche. “If you go the ministry website where they have the policy [aved.gov.bc.ca], there is a mandatory fee rate for new instructional programs, not amendments to existing programs. It’s clearly an amendment to an existing program, so they should be subject to the two-percent increase.”

Camosun student Blair Roche holding his petition (photo by Jill Westby/Nexus).

Camosun student Blair Roche holding his petition (photo by Jill Westby/Nexus).

Roche points to the June 15, 2015 Camosun College Education Council meeting minutes, which show the Education Council approving “program revisions” to Civil Engineering Technology courses (the minutes are available online at camosun.ca).

According to minister of advanced education Andrew Wilkinson, the college needs to stick to the two-percent rule for existing programs.

“Engineering Technology diplomas at Camosun College are existing programs and are subject to the annual tuition limit increase policy of two percent,” says Wilkinson. “Camosun will be submitting a written request for formal review by the Ministry to have these programs considered as new under the tuition limit policy.”

Roche says he has two primary goals: to bring to light the fact that “Camosun and all other institutions are critically underfunded,” and to show that it’s not going to be good if the college’s Engineering programs cost more than UVic, which, he says, they will if the program’s tuition is increased by 43.9 percent, which was the original proposal.

However, Camosun vice president of education John Boraas admits that the college made a mistake when doing the initial calculations for the new tuition cost, using national data instead of provincial.

“One of the things I want to put on the table is that one of our principles is that we want to be in the middle of the pack in terms of tuition,” he says. “When we did this proposal one of the things I realize now is that we looked at the middle of the pack nationally, not provincially, so this does put us at the very top. So there’s no doubt, no matter how this comes down, we will do another analysis to put ourselves in the provincial pack. We just used the wrong comparators.”

Boraas says that while there will still be a tuition raise if the government approves it, it won’t be 43.9 percent.

“This percentage is what we put forward initially and is one there will be some change to,” he says, “and that’s dependent on what government decides.”

Roche does acknowledge that Camosun’s tuition is comparatively low, and that the cost does need to go up, just, he says, “not 43 percent in one year.”

“The transfers from the ministry to the institutions have been getting cut by millions of dollars; meanwhile, the price of everything goes up, so they are desperate for money, and they don’t want to cancel programs, but if they don’t get money from somewhere, then they are going to have to cancel programs. They can’t force it out of the ministry, but they can squeeze it out of us. It’s an abusive relationship,” says Roche.

Boraas says letters were sent out to all students in the affected programs explaining that tuition would only increase for new students, although he’s not convinced everyone read them.

“I know when I get a letter from my bank, I often don’t read them, so I’m sure it’s the same when they get a letter from me,” says Boraas.

He says Camosun has sent the requests for the tuition increase to the Ministry of Advanced Education, but until they hear back, “everything is up in the air.”

“If you’re in year one right now, year two would see no increase in cost. So, in other words, you’re protected. Once you’ve started and we’ve said, ‘Here’s the cost for a program,’ we’re not going to change it.”

Boraas says that the college wants to do everything as transparently and openly as they possibly can.

“We got letters out to students, all those kinds of things. The intent was, ‘Here’s, black and white, what we’re trying to do.’”

Boraas stresses that it is in the Ministry of Education’s hands now, and “we’ll just respect whatever comes out of it.”

He also says that the college kept a close eye on the content to ensure they met the criteria for being considered “new.”

“I know that every single course we agreed was eligible for tuition change was a course that was changed, and not just by combining other courses,” says Boraas. “Truly new. It had to be at least 50 percent brand new to the program for us to accept it.”

Boraas adds that Camosun is trying to keep its programming in the face of government cuts.

“I’m just trying to very clearly move forward with being sure that we don’t have to cut more programs because we don’t have the money. So it’s that balance, and I want to do it well.”

Camosun student Rachael Grant, who is one of four student representatives on the Education Council board, says that “it’s really an unfortunate decision, and it’s horribly unjust to see tuition increased by this level.”

“I personally see that our college is doing this for a reason,” says Grant. “Our institution is chronically underfunded by our provincial government.”

Grant points out that the same thing happened with English 150 transitioning to English 151.

“It costs more, and it’s basic English that everyone has to take. I don’t understand how you can change basic English enough to justify increasing tuition over the two-percent cap. This is a very common practice. This is just them trying to get by. The provincial government knows they’re doing it, but they don’t care.”

Update: After this story ran, Camosun student Blair Roche contacted Nexus to correct a statement he had made in a quote. He said that there was a Ministry of Advanced Education-set mandatory fee rate for new instructional programs, not amendments to existing programs. Roche says that what he meant to say was that there is an exception to the ministry’s maximum fee increase rate (two percent) for new instructional programs, not amendments to existing programs.

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One Response to “Camosun student starts petition protesting potential tuition raise”
  1. Donn says:

    Just a concern about the students complaints about increases in tuition. I can’t blame them, life is hard and tends to get worse along with the cost of living. There is an additional catch here. A number of students and even faculty who were complaining about the means being used to heat the buildings at Camosun and U-Vic. They wanted to push for a stop to fossil fuel being used. This would mean a massive very expensive restructuring of the heating plant to something like electrical heat. There is already solar heating of water but electrical heat would be more expensive than natural gas. That would mean those costs would need to be picked up by increased tuitions or do the students think the rest of us would not mind increased taxes? I’m a senior and my pension hasn’t improved over 15 years but the cost of living keeps going up every year. Best of luck with keeping tuition down. Give the leaders in the university and college some good ideas how money can be saved, they’d appreciate it. There is only so much to go around.

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