Chants for educational rights rang strong on Tuesday morning as members of the University of Victoria Student Society protested the UVic Board of Governors expected approval to raise on campus residence fees by 13 per cent by next September.
The students protested by assembling a “mobile dormitory” in the foyer of the University Centre collections office, near a room where the board of governors approved the 13 per cent raise in fees later that day.
The hike is part of residence service’s 10-year renewal program to improve its aging facilities.
“Yes (resident services) needs the money to keep our residence maintenance standards up to par, but not on the backs of students,” said Greg Atkinson of the UVSS, who blamed the increases in part on a lack of funding from provincial government.
According to the 10-year renewal program, students will see six-per-cent increases in both 2016 and 2017, though each year’s the budget must be approved by the BOG. Even with the suggested inflation UVic’s housing fees will still be 14-per-cent cheaper in 2025 than the University of B.C., Simon Fraser University and the University of Guelph, said Kathryn MacLeod, director of residence services.
“The 10-year plan of rental increases addresses the deferred maintenance issues in our buildings, and also leads towards constructing a new building, but that’s longer term,” she said.
Three years ago, consultants assessed $70 million worth of work be done, including some deferred maintenance of the residences, as many buildings are from the 1960s and 70s.
“We also did a study to measure what students want from their residence, and with the necessary seismic upgrades the total we plan to spend over the next 10 years is about $81 million,” MacLeod said.
There are about 2,300 single student beds at UVic – about 400 are in the 1994-built cluster housing and another 181 units are in family housing, including two apartment buildings.
After the initial 13, six and six per cent housing fee increases over the next three years, rates would continue to rise at four per cent annually for the remainder of the 10-year renewal program before returning to the usual three per cent annual increase.
“Our rates are currently 30-per-cent less than institutions of similar size across the country,” MacLeod said. “Our annual rate increases have always been three per cent which is typical with universities.”
In 2014, resident services spent $1.6 million on new roofs, upgrading of older electrical systems and fire alarm systems, as well as envelope issues, such as windows, siding and balconies in the Gordon Head and Craigdarroch residences.
UVic Residence Services also initiated a new bursary program for eligible students worth up to $1,000.
This story was updated April 8 to correct inaccuracies in the original April 3 posting.