Profs See Good, Bad and Ugly in Budget Update

Created 1 September 2009 18:09

BC’s university professors today gave a mixed review to the provincial budget update for 2009/10.

“In the short term, the maintenance of university operating budgets at the levels promised in February is welcome given a provincial budget awash in red ink. February’s budget increase reversed the damaging reductions in 2008 and we are pleased to see that increase preserved in today’s budget update,” said Dr. Paul Bowles, President of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC.

Although detailed budget allocations were not released with today’s budget update, government officials have confirmed that funding to post-secondary institutions will remain as announced this past March.

“The immediate bad news are the cuts to annual capital allowance and student financial assistance programs. At a time when federal and provincial infrastructure money is going to new buildings, it makes little sense to reduce expenditures on maintaining and upgrading existing buildings,” Dr. Bowles said. “We also know that students are having a tough time and many are going back to school as a result of the recession. Reducing student aid funding at this time just increases the burden on students.”

Provincial government funding for building repair and maintenance will drop by about $16 million from the amount announced in March. Funding for student financial assistance will drop by almost $17 million at a time when demand is bound to increase.

“Looking forward, the outlook is not pretty. The institutions’ operating budgets will not increase at all over the next two years. This means no increases to cover inflationary costs, no ability to respond to any spike in student demand, and increased difficulties in recruiting and retaining faculty,” Dr. Bowles said. “These are indeed tough economic times, as the government points out, but the recovery which it predicts will not be seen in the universities over the following two years.”

Funding to post-secondary institutions is expected to be flat over the next two years, but because the costs of goods and services needed by universities and colleges tend to grow faster the rate of inflation, this means a real reduction in funding. So, the impacts of the recession will be continue to be felt in these institutions if and when the recession itself is technically over.

CUFA BC represents 4,600 university professors, instructors, academic librarians and other academic staff at SFU (Burnaby, Vancouver and Surrey campuses), UBC (Vancouver and Kelowna campuses), UNBC (Prince George, Terrace, Fort St. John and Quesnel campuses), UVic and Royal Roads University.