NIC practical nursing students struggling to pay $5,400 increase in program tuition

March 2, 2012

North Island College practical nursing students are struggling to come up with more money following an increase of approximately $5,400 in tuition fees for their program. The addition of new courses in the program, combined with a higher fee per credit, means that students who started the program in January and those set to begin this September are facing tuition fees of nearly $9,300, up from just under $3,900 a year earlier, as well as an additional year of study. The students learned of the fee increase in late November, meaning some had just over a month to adjust their plans. The NIC student union chairperson says the tuition increase is in direct contravention of the BC government's 2% fee increase cap for existing courses and it is presenting a hardship for students. Due to recent changes in the College of Licensed Practical Nurses of BC's training requirements, NIC has replaced its one-year practical nursing certificate with a 2-year diploma. The college has essentially declared the program "new," the student leader says, and so it qualifies for an institutional bylaw amended last year to allow for a 25% fee increase on all new upper-level courses introduced after August 15, 2011. The program is not new, but rather improved, argues the student leader, who says a fee increase to reflect the additional courses required would be acceptable, but points out that NIC is also charging 65% more per credit, even on classes that were part of the original one-year program. The board has acknowledged the financial burden the increased fees place on students. In response to students' concerns, board members said NIC had hoped to provide students considerable advance notice about the fee for the diploma program, but the advanced education ministry did not rule on whether it would qualify as a new program until mid-November, and the board moved quickly to set the tuition for the new program and inform applicants about the fee. The ministry is ultimately responsible for the situation as it holds the purse strings and has not allocated more funding for the program, which it allowed to be classified as "new," says the student union chairperson. Comox Valley Echo