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Tuition hike planned for Camosun College

Camosun College students will face a two per cent tuition hike next year, as the school seeks to eliminate a projected shortfall of up to $2 million.

Camosun College students will face a two per cent tuition hike next year, as the school seeks to eliminate a projected shortfall of up to $2 million.

The board of governors has approved a balanced budget of $108 million for 2013-14 that will largely protect programs and limit layoffs, officials say.

“We think it’s a pretty good outcome, given the constraints that we were left with,” said vice-president and chief financial officer Peter Lockie.

The budget partly relies on increased revenue from international students to offset rising costs and funding cuts from the B.C. government. The province reduced grants to all post-secondary institutions by $5 million this year and Camosun’s share works out to $138,000, college officials say.

At the same time, the college’s costs continue to rise, resulting in a “structural deficit” of $1.5 million to $2 million, Lockie said.

The college also had to find about $1.5 million in savings within its existing budget to pay for negotiated staff wage increases.

On the plus side, the province provided about $500,000 in one-time funding for targeted projects, Lockie said. Camosun also attracted 28 per cent more international students this year and expects the number to increase by another 10 per cent next year to 650 students, which will add $500,000 to the college’s bottom line.

“The message from government is pretty much flat funding,” Lockie said. “So we have to either reduce our costs or find alternative sources of non-government money. One of the main ones is international [students] and you’ve got the federal and provincial governments pushing the growth of international students.”

Camosun will trim about 15 positions, mostly through retirements and voluntary departures. The number of layoffs will be limited to the equivalent of 1.3 full-time jobs, officials say.

The college also expects to add 17 new positions with the government’s one-time funding and the increase in international students, for a net gain of about two jobs.

“For our members, I would say, to some extent, the theme is: ‘It could have been worse,’” faculty association president Kelly Pitman said. “We do have some reductions and also we have some additions as well … It’s really about reallocating.”

But she said the results will be “disastrous” if government continues to download costs onto post-secondary schools. “It’s unprecedented that the government would negotiate collective agreement increases and not fund them.”

Jerry Oetting, president of CUPE 2081, representing unionized college staff, also took aim at the province for short-changing post-secondary education. “In a lot of cases, it’s the taxpayers that are faced with the increased cost of funding their children to come to college and access the course that they want,” he said.

“Eighty per cent of the jobs in the future need post-secondary education, yet we can’t get the people through the institutions to do that and I think that’s a failure.”

Madeline Keller-Macleod, a student representative on the board of governors, voted against the budget to protest the provincial government’s cuts.

Keller-Macleod said some students will be able to handle a two per cent tuition hike, but others may be forced to quit. “I’ve certainly talked to students who are dropping out because of the amount of debt they have,” she said.

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