LETTER: Selkirk College, think outside the box on student tuition

From the head of the college’s faculty association

Full disclosure, I’m the president of the Selkirk College Faculty Association. I spoke in favour of the student proposal to freeze tuition prior to their presentation to the college board of governors.

At the last meeting on Jan. 22, 2019, the board approved the proposed hike of two per cent to tuition fees. For 16 years in a row, the board has approved an increase to student tuition. If you are someone who likes consistency, you would have to be impressed by the board’s track record.

Sixteen years ago or so, the Liberal government lifted the freeze on tuition that the NDP had put in place six years previous. They also tied tuition increases to the rate of inflation up to a maximum of two per cent. Makes sense if the focus is on the college having enough money to pay its bills. The college ultimately moves that burden of an increase in cost of living to students. What else can they do? They talk as if their hands are tied. Angus Graeme, president of Selkirk College has said that the college has little choice but to increase tuition rates this year.

I don’t think that the provincial government mandated that the college raise the tuition by two per cent. I believe this is an option that the provincial government created. Second, are there no other options but to increase tuition in order to keep in sync with the rate of inflation?

Apparently for 16 years, the college administration has had budget conversations and discussions and the best they could do, each and every year, was to ask for an increase to tuition of two per cent. Sixteen years of doing this and this is all they have ever come up with. Are there actually no viable options out there or is it just the simple, easy option – increase student tuition? Graeme was also quoted as saying that if they did not increase tuition, then the alternative would be to cut programs or services.

With that line of thinking, I guess it makes sense. With costs going up, if they can’t get more money from students, then something has to go. No argument that if they have less money, then they have to reduce. Angus Graeme rightly outlined the lack of increase of the base funding from the government and that for a few years, the provincial grant was even reduced.

But again, is more money from students the only option? What evidence do we have that this administration has been thinking outside of the box? Is there money possibly elsewhere to offset the increase, e.g. money from industry or more money from the government? Has this administration exhausted all other options or do they lack the ability to come up with options?

Lui Marinelli

President, Selkirk College Faculty Association

Castlegar

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