University Faculty Respond to 2019 BC Budget

Created 20 February 2019 17:02

Victoria, February 20, 2019 – BC Finance Minister Hon. Carole James tabled the 2019/20 Budget in the legislature yesterday. This is the NDP government’s second full budget, and includes ambitious investments in children and families, housing, and sustainable economic development. While there is little of note in this budget for BC’s research universities, many of the budget’s affordability measures will improve life for faculty members, particularly our contract academic staff members.

“While today’s budget includes significant investment in BC families and sustainable economic growth, unfortunately, it offers little for BC’s research universities,” notes Jacqueline Holler, CUFA BC President.

One highlight is the fulfillment of the BC NDP’s 2017 campaign promise to eliminate interest on BC student loans. The change is effective today, on existing and new loans.

“We applaud the government’s move to eliminate interest on BC student loans. Many students face barriers to post-secondary study, and this measure will improve access by reducing the debt burden of low-income and middle-class students when they graduate,” says Holler. “This move complements other PSE-related equity measures, such as eliminating tuition for adult basic education programs, and former children in care.”

Absent from today’s budget is any additional funding for the government’s graduate scholarship program, which was created last year. The program primarily targets STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) master’s and doctoral students, and at $12 million dollars, falls short of the NDP’s 2017 campaign promise for $50 million in graduate scholarships.

The budget includes targeted funding of $5 million over three years to increase the number of training seats for some high-demand health care professionals, including nurse practitioners. In 2021/22, an additional $5 million will be provided to increase the government’s targeted grants to post-secondary institutions (PSIs) for “technology programming”.

“We certainly welcome investment in high demand programs, such as health- and tech-related post-secondary education. But CUFA BC remains concerned by the trend of governments cherry-picking certain programs to support, rather than increasing general operating grants,” says Holler. “Universities boast their own collegial governance structures for identifying program priorities and allocating internal resources, and when governments choose which educational programs to support, they bypass that institutional expertise. After years of chronic underfunding, we need a significant reinvestment in operational funding.”

For further information, please contact Dr. Jacqueline Holler, President, at 250-960-6343.

The Confederation of University Faculty Associations of British Columbia represents over 5,400 professors, lecturers, instructors, and librarians at British Columbia’s five research-intensive universities: University of British Columbia, University of Northern British Columbia, University of Victoria, Royal Roads University, and Simon Fraser University.