B.C. universities take different approaches toward softening the blow of rising tuition.

January 29, 2003

B.C. universities take different approaches toward softening the blow of rising tuition.

School’s spending beyond their means says UBC official

Published: Mon-13-Jan-2003

By Kevin Groves, British Columbia Bureau

VANCOUVER (CUP) — At least one B.C. university made its leaders open to debate about tuition earlier this month as plans continue to add another 30 per cent increase onto B.C.’s post-secondary students this semester.

In a recent public forum, Brian Sullivan, the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Vice-President Students, said that while the school’s 23 per cent increase last year allowed the university to make some improvements, in areas such as course availability, class size, classrooms, and technical support, additional increases are still needed.

“These [increases] are not just about raising tuition up to the national average, but about looking at maintaining our quality of education and improving what we have,” Sullivan said to the 13 students who attended the forum in the activity room of an on-campus residence.

UBC has called for a $798 increase in basic undergraduate tuition, bringing the grand total to $3,459 for a 30-credit course load. Tuition increases in other faculties, such as Commerce, Engineering, and Pharmaceutical Sciences, will be higher. Sullivan added that the current tuition proposal is not set in stone and can be changed based on student feedback.

But other sources interviewed were less optimistic that the tuition consultation process will yield any useful changes. “It seems like a fa├žade,” said UBC student Jineane Babish, who attended the forum. “Having our input is important but I’d like to see our opinion applied in policy.”

Sullivan also admitted during the forum that UBC made an accounting mistake last year and over-budgeted by $5 million when it was preparing its tuition proposal. That means UBC will need to budget another $5 million in tuition revenue this year to offset university spending from last year. “Basically [UBC] spent $5 million beyond its means last year,” Sullivan said.
He added that UBC plans to consult with students on where this year’s extra $5 million in tuition revenue should be spent after the current tuition proposal is ratified.

That ratification process will occur after UBC’s tuition proposal is presented to its Board of Governors on Jan. 27. But the board’s finance committee will review the student consultation process four days earlier and may consider holding a special meeting in February to discuss tuition increases, should additional consultations be deemed necessary. If UBC’s tuition proposal is approved, the new fee schedule, which is projected to generate $28 million in additional revenue for the university, will take effect in May 2003.

Sullivan admitted the increases are painful, but said they are likely to get smaller in subsequent years. “Right now we’re in the second year of a three-year process of sizable increases,” he said. “After that I’m expecting modest, if any, tuition increases.”

Meanwhile, other B.C. colleges and universities have taken different approaches toward consulting with students about tuition.

At the University of Victoria (UVic), about 75 students staged a silent protest last week by binding their hands with rope and wearing gags made of stickers objecting to a 30 per cent tuition hike. The protest was staged to symbolize a lack of student input on tuition at UVic, said student society chair Michelle Kinney.

At the same time, UVic’s Board of Governors endorsed a budget that will increase average tuition fees by about $840. That decision brings the cost of basic undergraduate tuition to about $3,635 at UVic.

At Okanagan University College, North Campus student union president Aaron Ekman said his constituents are still reeling from last year’s tuition increases, and may decide to take action in the next few months.

“We’re a bit more conservative up here, so I doubt any protest will be similar to what we saw down on the coast, but there are a lot of people here who are getting fed up,” Ekman said. “A protest could come from us, or it may come from students doing it on their own.”

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