By TIFFANY WILSON
The student priority fee will continue to rise with the cost of living.
Mike Dinning, who has been the college’s vice-president of student affairs for the past seven years, attended the CSI monthly board meeting held on Feb. 29 to discuss the three per cent increase of the priority fee and a $16.25 increase in the graduation/ alumni services fee.
In order to support services, projects and initiatives of direct benefit to students, the priority fee is reviewed every year. This year the fee was $46.35 and as of September the fee will increase to $47.74. Since the college has grown 49 per cent in the last five years, it has had a significant impact on the priority fee income.
“What I like to do each year is to come and create a context for the fee. (Meaning) what does the college spend on the general area of student affairs and student services and where does the priority fee fit into that and then discuss the proposed budget for the year,” said Dinning.
The fee pays for such activities as Student Life initiatives, orientation, leadership programs and the Respect Campaign.
There has not been an increase other than the cost of living since 2005. Dinning said the reason behind this is because they want to try and keep education affordable while increasing the college experience for students.
“The commitment that was made was that money would go directly into direct services to students and not into anything that has to do with academic measures,” Dinning said.
With an estimated $31 million in the student affairs budget, when compared to the total college budget that is in the vicinity of $150 million to $160 million, it shows that 20 per cent of students’ money is being spent on non-academic resources.
During the meeting, a colourful student affairs administrative organizational chart was distributed among board members. Identified by colours, nine direct reports were broken into five groups, each representing services of the college that either generate their own money or that are paid by the college’s operating fund, student ancillary fee or through provincial government grants.
Food services, residence, retail services and the International English Language Testing System are all self-generating services. For example, residence has generated about $3.3 million this year, Dinning said.
“We don’t run (these programs) to just run them, we run them, one, because it’s good service to operate and help us as a program, but also it helps underscore the general operating costs of the college,” he said.
On the other hand, programs such as Aboriginal Services, first generation, health services and virtual community are all programs Dinning referred to as ministry-funded.
“They are all programs that are operated through funding that is supplied by the federal and provincial governments,” he said.
By a binding directive by the Ontario Ministry of Education that came out of a review of all colleges’ ancillary fees about three years ago, money that is directed to certain services cannot be spent on anything else.
For example, if the government says they are providing funding for Aboriginal services, the college cannot spend it on any other service.
Meanwhile, the student ancillary fees cover Student Life initiatives and the recreation centre. These fees are put in place to support the non-academic services that are on campus. In saying this, the government is very clear and poses a great challenge for the college said Dinning, as splitting fees among other areas of the college is hard to do.
Trish Crompton, CSI director of external relations, said, “There are certain areas of our school that need attention straight away and it is important for our students to get that in order to get the most out of their education. Can we institute a new fee to cover that? For example the library, the big elephant in everybody’s room, can we put in a fee to cover that? ”
Dinning said no because it does not fit the criteria of a priority fee. The physical infrastructure must be paid for out of tuition and government grants and if it is not, this would be considered hidden tuition costs, which are not allowed.
“We made a commitment that that’s where the money would be focused (student life).
“The only exception with that is with those in Career Services. A couple of the career advisers who specifically advise students with their career choices are also funded through the priority fee.”
However, the final two categories listed on the student affairs organization chart are either supported or paid directly by the college such as registrar services, co-op education services, etc. Some departments such as Career Services and the Learning Commons offer services that are paid for by the operating and ancillary fees and government grants.
“We are playing by the game, we are playing by the rules,” said Dinning.
The motion to increase the priority fee by the cost of living was approved by the board.
In other business, Dinning asked the board to increase the graduation/alumni services fee from $37.12 to $53.37 over a span of two years. According to Dinning, the fee has not gone up since 1996, but costs have increased as the number of convocations increase.
“During that time we used to run four convocation ceremonies a year, we now run six,” he said, and will be adding a seventh next year.
The number of people graduating has increased by 50 per cent. He said what once cost $360,000 now costs $533,000. With an increase of $7.39 this year and an $8.86 increase the following year, the total cost over a two-year period would only be $16.25, said Dinning. What this will do is increase the budget to $533,000 to pay for those services.
The board also approved this motion.