Camosun College fends off cuts to key programs

Camosun College officials have come up with a budget with no program cuts, sparing such courses as music professional studies, early learning and care, and computer science technology.

“They were programs that we identified as possible reductions,” Camosun president Kathryn Laurin said Tuesday. “I’m happy to tell you that there are no program suspensions or cancellations or removal.”

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Still, the balanced $114-million budget document approved by the board of governors could ultimately mean about a dozen faculty and other staff lose their jobs — the result of a 2.5 per cent drop in operating funds for all departments and other college divisions. Camosun has more than 900 employees.

In addition, tuition will be going up two per cent in September.

“Everybody’s going to feel something,” Laurin said.

Zoe Clint, one of about 75 students worried about the future of the music program, run in conjunction with the Victoria Conservatory of Music, was relieved it would remain.

“I’m pretty excited that it’s going to be continuing,” Clint said. “I thought it was going to be cancelled for sure.

“To have arts cancelled in any way is pretty stupid. It’s asking people to cut off a way of expressing themselves.”

Laurin said months of work went into the final budget, including close consultation with faculty and staff. The budget process included trimming a $3.8-million shortfall.

“It’s as good a budget as we can develop under these circumstances,” she said.

One important aspect of the budget was revenue growth from an increase in the number of international students at Camosun.

“In the last two years, our international numbers are up 55 per cent,” Laurin said. “We have about 18,000 students and our international number right now is about 850 students.”

The international group comes from 60 different countries.

Had international student numbers not gone up, “I can assure you we would be in a much worse situation,” Laurin said.

The gross budgeted revenue for the international-student program is about $13 million in 2014-15.

Another budget element of concern to officials is “lack of clarity” in future funding for the school’s English as a second language program.

The province announced last year that colleges and universities would lose $17 million in federal money to provide ESL training to immigrants and domestic students.

Camosun received enough provincial money — about $2.4 million — to continue the ESL program for a year but is still waiting to hear about an application for federal funding.

In other news, Laurin and Royal Roads University president Allan Cahoon signed a five-year memorandum of understanding on Tuesday to acknowledge their schools’ shared interests in such things as regional economic development, and national and global issues.

The step could lead to jointly conferring academic credentials, offering joint admission and shared marketing of some programs.

Cahoon said the move builds on the Vancouver Island Public Post-Secondary Alliance announced in March, a group that includes Camosun, Royal Roads, North Island College, the University of Victoria and Vancouver Island University.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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