The following is a response to the article “Tuition rises: but cuts still made?” which appeared in Isuue #27 of last month.
Dear Editor of the Other Press:
Having an open dialogue with students and employees about the college budget is something that I admire and encourage here at Douglas. This has been my first budget process since joining the college and I have been impressed with the thoughtful questions and discussions that we’ve had in various meetings and forums.
However, good dialogue starts with good information, and there were several incorrect assumptions and statements in your May 6, 2014, article Tuition rises: but cuts still made?, which need to be clarified.
For example, one often-overlooked point is that inflationary costs currently exceed tuition increases. At two per cent per year, increased tuition is not enough to cover increases to base operating costs, let alone allow for the enhancements requested by students.
Fortunately, because the college has other sources of funding, we are able to not only cover those rising operating costs, but also actually increase the number of programs we offer and improve our services. In fact, the college is investing $1.8 million from this budget directly into academic and service areas, including but not limited to: 104 new academic sections to reduce waitlists, new science lab technicians and a mathematics assistant, new computer skills tutoring in the Learning Commons, another computer technician to help keep PCs up to date—as well as student assistants for additional technical support—an expansion of the Essential Skills pilot project, an extension of the Student Employment Centre, extended library hours at both campuses, new student collaboration stations, and a review of the cafeteria space at the Coquitlam campus.
Over the past five years, Douglas College has invested millions of dollars into college technology and infrastructure to modernize and improve the college for students and employees. Just four years ago, the concourse at New West campus was a cold and unwelcoming place. Today, it’s bursting with life, as students enjoy the soft seating, collaboration stations, stage and video capacity, student lounge and the warm atmosphere made possible through extensive renovations. WiFi capacity has been vastly improved and is now only limited by our physical connection to the Internet, which is being reviewed by our mandated service provider.
Douglas College is also committed to student engagement, which is why we have restructured the student services division and will be adding new employees in that area to create new opportunities for students to engage with the college, the community, and the world. Whether it’s through academics, sports, co-curricular, or leadership activities, Douglas wants to have one of the best student experiences in the country.
We are also committed to helping students meet financial needs. Last year, the Douglas College Foundation distributed over $1.5 million to more than 1,800 students through awards, bursaries, and scholarships. Of the $1.5 million, more than $750,000 was flowed through directly from the college and this has been the annual average for the past 10 years.
Yes, Douglas College is fortunate to be running a budget surplus, and that surplus allows the college to continue to improve programs and services and to grow and expand. We have reached capacity at New Westminster campus, and with the new SkyTrain line coming to our Coquitlam campus, it won’t be long before that campus is bursting at the seams as well. We will need more space and the $35-million accumulated in the major capital reserve (not $60-million, as the article stated) is earmarked to fund future campus expansion as well as other significant necessary capital expenditures such as technology investments and major facility renovations not funded by the Ministry.
Creating a budget that accommodates everyone’s needs and interests isn’t easy and it isn’t always possible. It’s my hope that through a balanced approach, we can build on our amazing successes and continue to improve the student experience over the years to come. I welcome continued student feedback as we work together towards being one of the best colleges in the country.
Finance and Administration