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Okanagan College’s Board of Governors has approved a $95.5-million balanced operating budget for the coming fiscal year, addressing a $1.6 million shortfall through a number of measures, including reduced expenditures, expected increases in enrolment and a two per cent increase in tuition fees.
“We must a produce a balanced budget for the institution,” explains College Board of Governors Chair Tom Styffe. “That balance extends to what we’ve asked our staff to do and what we are expecting of students. Our departments have found ways to reduce expenditures and increase revenues through contract training and through enhanced enrolment. At the same time, we’re increasing tuition two per cent.”
“This is only the third time in eight years that we have implemented an across-the-board fee increase,” Styffe notes. “Our goal this year was to avoid program and service cuts and we have achieved this. We want to ensure that we continue to provide access to the quality education that our students and communities deserve.”
Most institutions in British Columbia have taken the allowable two per cent increases each year since the Province implemented the limit on tuition fee increases in 2005. While tuition has gone up by 6.1 per cent at Okanagan College since 2005, the Consumer Price Index has risen more than 15 per cent.
For a full-time student in university Arts with a typical course load, the two per cent increase in 2013-14 will amount to $62.79 per year, while a level one Automotive Painter apprentice would see tuition increase by $7.96.
In addressing the 2013-14 budget issue, the College had to manage $952,000 in inflationary costs, as well as an anticipated $120,000 reduction in funding from the Province (part of a $70 million reduction to be applied sector-wide over the coming three years).
The increase in tuition is expected to yield about $302,500, while an increase in enrolment is projected to yield about $92,000 in additional tuition. Reductions in departmental expenses and increases in revenue are estimated at $240,000, while increased revenue from contract and custom training is projected to yield $670,000.
These stories were written by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and are being redistributed to the Okanagan with their permission. See attached photos of Brad Tronson and Teresa Proudlove and Jennifer Jack.
From Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
Brad Tronson knows the value of having support when you are trying to make decisions about your career. He had worked in construction for 10 years when an injury on the job changed everything. Forced out of the career he loved, Brad ended up working in security to pay the bills but his heart wasn't in it. Fortunately, he bumped into an old friend who told him about a program that could help. Even better, it was being offered right in his own community — Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB).
As Brad discovered, OKIB's pre-employment program helps community members take the first steps towards a life-long career. Designed and delivered in partnership between OKIB and Okanagan College, this training program caters to the specific needs of the community. With the support of funding provided by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) and the Province of British Columbia, the program was recently expanded to include essential skills training and Adult Basic Education. The program now includes a five-month curriculum that equips students with practical skills and industry-specific certification that will make them more employable.
Like many of the students in the program, Brad faced several barriers to finding long-term employment. He didn't have a computer, Internet access or the skills to research career options and education requirements. Moreover, without a driver's license, he couldn't drive to classes or interviews outside the reserve. The pre-employment program helped him assess his skills, learn how to explore the job market and even obtain his driver's license.
By the end of the program, Brad was able to choose a career path that inspired him and he registered for the carpentry and joinery program at the Okanagan College Kelowna campus. "I've built houses for 10 years and I'm good at working with wood. I figured joinery is right up my alley and it's less physically demanding."
Brad recently won a bursary for Aboriginals in Trades and is on track to complete the college program in March and plans to pursue a Red Seal certificate in carpentry soon. However, another career change may be in store. He was recently approached by the Dean of Carpentry to help recruit Aboriginal youths to train for working in the trades. He will have to complete another college program to be eligible but looks forward to deciding on which career path to take – career options that were not on the horizon six months ago.
"I'm glad I found the program," says Brad. "Teresa and Jennifer really helped me find a career I can get excited about. I like what I'm studying now and look forward seeing where it will take me."
Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) and Okanagan College have put considerable care and attention into ensuring its pre-employment program meets the needs of its members. They know that if individuals succeed, the community as a whole will also benefit.
To help ensure the pre-employment program addresses community needs, OKIB and Okanagan College continually seek input from Band stakeholders, students as well as program alumni. The program was recently expanded to include essential skills training, employability certification and Adult Basic Education through funding from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and the Province of BC. As a result, the course curriculum includes not only typical pre-employment training topics such as skills-assessment and resume writing but also workshops that focus on Aboriginal culture, communication skills, financial management, healthy eating and fitness.
OKIB Social Development Worker Cindy Brewer, Okanagan College Program Coordinator Cindy Meissner and lead facilitator Teresa Proudlove designed the pre-employment program to integrate foundational Aboriginal workshops throughout. "We have Social worker Molly Brewer talking to students on topics such as relationships, addictions and anger management that could be potential barriers to employment. Elder Judy Goodsky comes in to facilitate workshops about Aboriginal history and the medicine wheel helping students learn more about their heritage and how to keep themselves in balance" says Proudlove. "Many employment programs miss these critical cultural elements which reinforce students' honour and pride in their culture."
Joshua Edwards, a current student, has found the broad range of topics helpful. The class "got into depth with some of the cultural stuff," he says. "I'm not normally interested in my culture so it was pretty cool to hear about it." Kane Alexis, another student, was surprised at the number of topics that are covered. "I thought it would only be about upgrading education requirements but it was more about developing social skills and gaining all kinds of employable skills."
Jennifer Jack is the recruiter and facilitator from the OKIB office. Her deep knowledge of this close-knit community helps her identify people who would most benefit from this program. Now a proud mother of two, she was once a young woman on welfare without a high-school diploma and few prospects. When she became pregnant, she decided to fight for a second chance. She completed the necessary upgrades and continued on to receive her Human Services Diploma and her degree in social work.
Jennifer uses her journey as an example to keep students motivated. She likes to remind community members that it's never too late. "I barely thought I could earn a diploma, let alone a degree. It was scary but I went back."
Equally important is simply creating an environment where people want to come to class every day. "The program is here at Okanagan Indian Band. That's really fantastic; it makes it easier to get here," Proudlove says. Simply coming to class makes a difference she continues, "What would you be doing if you weren't making a commitment to come to class everyday for five months to focus on your career?"
Amber Phelan, a graduate of the program who is now taking Business Administration at Okanagan College agrees. "A lot of students would never come to town to participate in something like this, first of all because of transportation and gas and everything else."
The presence of the classroom in the community also helps reminds people that their friends and family are taking concrete steps towards building a future says Amber. "Having the program here is really cool because it spreads awareness through the community. Parents hear about it and they want their children to do something with their lives. It just opens doors for so many people and gives people a push to do something great."
Okanagan College Media Release
Okanagan College’s Board of Governors has passed a $92.8 million balanced budget for 2014-15 that includes tuition fee increases for domestic and international students.
“While this is a tight budget year that involves some adjustments, it also allows introduction of a new program in Sustainable Construction Management Technology, and anticipates a growth in our international student population,” explains Tom Styffe, Chair of Okanagan College’s Board of Governors.
“We have seen pressure on our annual operating budget from several fronts. We began this budget process wrestling with an issue that was measured in seven figures. It has led to some tough decisions, including some position adjustments, but we have a responsibility to focus on the sustainability of our initiatives, with respect for student and community demand.”
Some positions will be reduced, taking advantage of retirements, and there are plans for layoffs of two part-time support positions, noted Styffe. “Where required, we are also looking at shifting positions to reflect demand for programs.”
Tuition increases are one source being used to address the financial pressures. Domestic student tuitions are increasing by two per cent, while international students – who have not seen an increase in the past five years – will see tuition increase by eight per cent in the coming year.
For a domestic student taking a full-time university transfer arts program at Okanagan College, tuition will increase from $3,203 annually to $3,267. Average tuition among all public post-secondary institutions in the province for an arts program is $3,636 annually. The average among B.C.’s colleges is $2,706 annually. While university transfer arts tuition is the comparator used by many organizations it paints a very small part of the picture at the College, which has 138 credential programs: 54 of Okanagan College’s programs are below provincial average in terms of tuition charged, while another four are at the provincial average. Another 12 programs have no provincial comparators. 68 programs charge above-average tuition.
For a student taking Okanagan College’s Legal Administrative Assistant Program in Litigation, for example, tuition in 2014-15 would increase from $1,787 to $1,823 – approximately 24 per cent less than the average charged for the program in other B.C. post-secondary institutions ($2,353).
The domestic student tuition increase is expected to generate approximately $313,371 in additional revenue, that will be offset by an expected reduction in enrolment ($1.23 million) in some program areas because of falling numbers of high school graduates.
International students, whose tuition hasn’t increased during the past five years at Okanagan College, will face an increase of eight per cent, from approx. $11,000 to $11,880. The average tuition charged to international students by B.C.’s colleges is $12,286. Increased tuition is expected to yield an additional $275,000, while increased international student enrolment is expected to provide an additional $638,735.
Kelowna-based author and Okanagan College English professor, Alix Hawley, has been named one of the top five finalists in the Canada Writes – 2014 CBC Short Story Prize.
Her short story, “Jumbo,” is about the love a young girl has for an elephant at the zoo, and was inspired by a 19th-century photograph Hawley came across when she was working on her PhD in English Literature in England.
“There was little girl in the photo and she was staring straight into the camera with such a sharp expression on her face,” says Hawley.
“She became the central figure of “Jumbo” and around her the story explores the hugeness of love and the difficulty children have dealing with emotion.”
This recognition marks the second time Hawley has been a finalist in the Canada Writes Short Story competition. She was in the top five in 2012 for her satirical story “Tentcity” about lost love during the 2003 Okanagan fire.
Most recently, she won CBC’s Canada Writes BloodLines short-story writing contest in December 2013 for “Pig (for Oma).”
Hawley is humbled by all the attention her work is getting.
“I am grateful, delighted and surprised,” she says.
“It's nice, if a little disconcerting, to think that more people might be reading my work. It’s especially nice that short fiction is getting attention as well, because it's a genre I love.”
Other writing credits for Hawley include a short-story collection, The Old Familiar, (2008), and a novel, entitled All True Not a Lie In It, that is scheduled to be published in early 2015 by Knopf / Random House Canada. In addition, she was recently named Knopf’s New Face of Fiction for 2015.
There were 3,200 stories from across the country submitted in this year’s Canada Writes Short Story competition. The winner will be announced Mar. 24 and, in addition to a cash prize of $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, will receive a two-week residence at The Banff Centre and have their story published in enRoute magazine.
To read Alix Hawley’s contest entry, “Jumbo,” and to find out more about Canada writes, visit www.cbc.ca/books/canadawrites/literaryprizes/shortstory.