Northern Lights College plans for moderate tuition adjustments

FORT ST. JOHN, BC – On March 17th the Northern Lights College Board served Notice of Motion that it will consider a tuition increase not to exceed 15 per cent. The notice will be posted for the College community to consider and provide an opportunity for its members to make comment. Some comments regarding tuition changes were already received from regional student councils and were shared at the board meeting, plus a petiton was presented on their behalf. Specifically, council representatives indicated that a modest increase would be acceptable, with the understanding that some form of direct benefits would be made to students. With previous tuition increases, the College set aside money for two significant endowments to support students in need.

“The board considered several factors in making this recommendation for a tuition increase. Among them, student debt load; the College’s ability to continue offering programs that are responsive to the marketplace; and long-range viability of the institution,” said board chair Kate O’Neil.

The pressure felt by institutions to address the considerable demands on funding changes and inflationary factors prompted the recommended rise in tuition levels as a means to ensuring student access. In the long term, effective management of tuition means finding a balance between access for students and program development for the region. Consideration of these factors helps ensure that NLC remains viable through a gradual and sustainable approach to serving the region through moderate tuition adjustments and responsible fiscal management. And, as the ‘real’ costs of programs and services continues to rise, this stable approach to program and service expansion allows for planned growth for the College. In this, the third year of potential tuition adjustments, it is anticipated that fees will begin to stabilize for the institution.

Although there had been tuition stability for a six-year period when the BC government imposed a freeze on provincial post-secondary institutions, the end result left many institutions in the difficult position of also being six years behind in managing the increased demands on operating revenue. By 2002, when this legislation was rescinded, the BC average tuition fees of $2,525 (Stats Can) had dropped to 21 per cent below the Canadian average of $3,064 (Stats Can). And, during this period, NLC tuition represented only 43 per cent, or $1,083, of this same provincial average. Thus, in the latter two years since the change in legislation, the response by provincial post-secondary institutions has been substantial.

Nonetheless, the response by the NLC Board in its deliberations over tuition levels for the next fiscal year is one of concern for students. A key factor that had a profound influence on this recommendation, is student debt load. With access to post-secondary education significantly affected by its cost, keeping NLC tuition and fees affordable is paramount. Although, NLC tuition remains below the provincial average there is an expectation that students contribute financially to their education in view of its long-term economic benefit, alongside the challenging expectation that the College is also to ensure that programs and services remain intact.

“The board will continue to assess the fiscal needs of the College while taking student debt load and institutional growth into consideration,” concluded O’Neil.

The recommendation by the NLC Board is that Academic and Career Technical program tuition shall not exceed $82.23 per credit and that Vocational program tuition shall not exceed $72.15 per week. Adult Basic Education shall continue to remain tuition-free, and programs for individuals with barriers have recommended tuition adjustments not to exceed the inflation rate of 2.1 per cent for the 2004/05 fiscal year.

For more information please contact Cyndy Lorincz, registrar, Northern Lights College, Dawson Creek, email clorincz@nlc.bc.ca, phone 784-7513 in Dawson Creek, or toll-free at 1-866-463-6652.