North Island College Board of Governors approved a balanced budget Thursday for the 2015/16 fiscal year, which projects revenues and expenditures totaling $39.6 million. The budget includes a 2 per cent tuition fee increase for courses and programs beginning after August 15, 2015.

“The tuition increase will work out to just over $5 per course,” said NIC President John Bowman. “It will generate about $73,000 in revenue to the college.”

Goat News spoke with college spokesperson Susan Auchterlonie.

Board members heard one of the more challenging aspects of this year’s budget process was NIC’s base funding reduction of $372,000 after the province changed its policy governing Adult Upgrading programs. Beginning in 2015, the provincial government is effectively requiring all post-secondary institutions in BC to charge up to a maximum tuition of $1,600 per semester for a full-time Adult Upgrading student. In setting tuition for Adult Upgrading courses, NIC recognized the distinct enrollment and completion patterns of the various levels of programming, and decided to offer fundamental Adult Upgrading programming at a rate of $106.66 per course and tuition for ESL Beginner classes at $160 per course, while tuition for all other upgrading courses will be $106.66 per credit.

“NIC’s approach to tuition for Adult Upgrading strikes a balance between adhering to government policy, while remaining accessible and affordable for adult learners wishing to upgrade in anticipation of furthering their education or retraining for a new career,” said Tony Bellavia, NIC’s Assistant Vice President, Access and Regions. “Most of NIC’s Adult Upgrading students do not attend on a full-time basis and instead take an average of two courses per semester, which means they will be pay an average of about $600 per semester.”

The North Island Students’ Union (NISU) criticized the government’s decision to charge for Adult Upgrading.

“It is unfortunate that the Province has reinstated tuition for Adult Upgrading, especially as it impacts our most marginalized learners,” said Jamie Lund, NISU’s Chair. “Tuition increases of any kind lessen the affordability of post-secondary education and act as a barrier for students wishing to access further education, and we expect the reinstatement of tuition for Adult Upgrading courses to have significant impact on many students’ ability to pursue their educational goals.”

In February, the province provided a “one-time” grant of $372,000 to NIC for 2015/16 “to assist with the planning and changes necessary to transition to a sustainable model for Adult Upgrading.”

Students who have not graduated from high school will still be eligible to enrol in tuition free upgrading programs offered through school districts.

The province expanded its Adult Upgrading Grant. Students may be eligible to have some or all of their tuition, books and transportation costs covered, depending upon their income.

Bowman told board members the college took a more tactical approach to the development of the 2015/16 budget.

“We took a more strategic approach focused on a longer-term horizon, given that the college is in the process of developing a new five-year plan, as well as developing a new planning framework to guide the development and delivery of instructional programs,” Bowman said. “This year’s projected deficit of $705,000 was addressed through new and increased revenue — in particular more financial support from International Education, a mix of temporary and permanent cost reductions, and a drawdown of reserves on a one-time basis to cover ongoing costs until directions emerging from the planning processes can be implemented in the coming years.”

Bowman also noted that NIC remains the most affordable public, post-secondary institution on Vancouver Island and one of the most affordable in BC.