By Mary-Ellen Godfrey
Students entering subsidized programs at Holland College this fall face major fee increases.
The college is replacing lab fees, which currently range from $90 to $1,500, with an across-the-board technology fee of $1,250. Fees for three subsidized programs that currently charge more than $1,250 may be reduced to conform to the standardized fee.
Combined with a tuition fee of $2,000 for these programs, the college will charge first-year students $3,250.
A little more than 40 per cent of college programs will be affected by the fee increase.
The technology fee will be phased in, so second-year students enrolled in these subsidized programs will pay a $650 technology fee, instead of the lab fees which currently vary from program to program.
The fee increase will generate an estimated $700,000 in additional revenue for the college this fall.
By the fall of the year 2000, every student in every program will be paying at least $1,250 in technology fees.
The increase, part of the strategic plan for 1999-2000, was approved by the college board of governors on March 24.
Graduation fees will also be standardized at $55. Currently most students pay $15. Following the board of governors meeting, sessions were arranged at various centres of the college so staff could discuss the strategic plan with president Alex MacAulay.
Recently, The Surveyor explored the changes with the president. MacAulay explains the increase as simply a way to keep the college's computers and other technology up to date.
"We have to improve upon them and in order to do that, I don't know what the dollar figure is going to be, but it's going to be somewhere around $800,000 a year that is going to have to be spent," he says.
"Investments have to be made for staff development, curriculum development." "The fees are put on to assure that the technology needs of the students are, at the very minimum, maintained at the level that they are now."
MacAulay quickly points out only 42 or 43 per cent of college programs will be charging higher in fees.
"Over half the programs in the college won't be affected," he says, noting that self-supporting programs already charge higher fees.
"That technology fee is going to hit some programs harder than others." MacAulay insists the fee will not go to eliminate the college's current deficit.
"We can balance our books without this fee. But we want to do more than balance the books," he says. "We want to ensure that the college is in a state of growth."
"It's meant to enhance the quality of training. We have to be able to attract a high quality of students and, at the end of the day, we have to prepare the equipment."
"We have done a comprehensive study on our existing technology and the study tells us we'll have to spend at least $500,000 a year just to replace what we have."
"If we're going to keep it at the level it is now, this time next year, we'll have to have spent $500,000. That doesn't include any growth at all."
MacAulay says the technology fee is not lumped in with tuition because it's not being used the same way tuition funds are spent.
"This fee is attached directly to the technology base of the college."
MacAulay says the increase addresses the college's three main priorities: "quality curriculum, quality instructors and quality students."
A distinct and serparate technology fee, he says, helps people at the college understand where the money is being spent.
"It's important to our staff at the college and students at the college to be aware of the fact of what some of the costs are for the types of programs and services."
MacAulay adds students are not the only ones who are surprised at the news. "As I go around to each staff, they ask me similar questions and some of them are quite shocked that there could be such a cost attached to just maintaining the level we're at," he says. "And that level -- I think most staff would tell you and probably most students would tell you -- is not an acceptable level."
The president is certain replacing and upgrading technology will be an ongoing process.
"This is not a one-shot deal, let me tell you," he says.
"At one time, you see, an institution could make a purchase, and once you made that purchase, it had a life of about 20 years. Computers have a life of two, 2 1/2, three years. And you're into it all over again."
Applicants for the fall of 1999 will be notified of the increase when they are accepted.
MacAulay defends the decision to charge students enrolled in programs that may not use much technology the same $1,250.
"The reality is that they're part of the whole," he says. "When you develop policies or introduce new things to the institution, you do it to the whole college."
"It's important that they look at the whole, they look at the whole college." As for students in programs that already pay above the $1,250 mark, MacAulay suggests the fees could possibly be rolled back for next fall.
"I think they're being rolled back. I'm not 100 per cent sure about that." MacAulay contends the changes here are happening in other schools as well. "What's happening here is not something that's not happening with other places and students right across North America," he says. "Holland College isn't unique here."
Some students have suggested it may be cheaper to buy their own computers than to pay the college higher technology fees.
"We are looking at various concepts now," MacAulay says. "I would suspect that would be much more costly (to students) than what is being done now." MacAulay says this revenue increase shouldn't have any effect on future government subsidies.
"As a matter of fact, if government increased our subsidies tomorrow we would like to be able to decrease tuition fees for some of the (self-supporting) programs."
He says a lengthy process will begin soon to try to smooth out the inequities in tuition among the college's programs.
"That's going to take time for us," MacAulay says. "Some of our students are paying enormously high tuition fees. That's a problem, I think, that deserves more attention."
As for rumours that the eventual phasing out of Royalty Centre might mean an addition or possibly a new building at Charlottetown Centre, MacAulay says this increase would not be a source of funding for any new facilities.
"We're in the conceptual stages now of looking at new facilities, but we're not at the point to announce anything."
MacAulay says a standardized graduation fee is also intended to eliminate inequities.
"All we're doing is establishing one fee," he says. "Why should some students pay $45 and other students $25?"
The additional $42,000 will not make a significant difference to the college budget.
"A lot of money to you or I, but not a lot of money in a college budget," he says.
MacAulay insists it's his job to manage change.
"We simply have to change," he says. "If we don't change, we're not addressing the students properly."
MacAulay says this latest change will improve the quality of the college. "Technology has a price."
with files from Scott Doherty