University Faculty Respond To BC Budget

Created 21 February 2018 09:02

Victoria: February 20, 2018 — BC Finance Minister Carole James tabled the 2018/19 Budget in the legislature today. The first NDP budget in 17 years outlined increased spending in a number of areas including housing, child care, and K-12 education. However, there was very little of note for BC’s research universities.

“Today’s budget offers very little for BC’s research universities” said Jim Johnson, President of CUFA BC. “We were particularly disappointed that the government did not fulfill its election promise to implement a merit-based scholarship for graduate students. In its 2017 election platform the NDP included a $50 million graduate scholarship commitment and we expect the government to honour that promise.”

The budget did include an historic announcement allowing colleges and universities to borrow money from the government to build new student housing spaces. The program will set aside $450 million to allow institutions to borrow at favourable rates.

“We support the initiative to allow colleges and universities to borrow,” said Johnson. “We have called for this measure for a number of years and it will alleviate some of the fiscal pressure on capital projects. In addition, we support this measure because it will provide modest relief for students scrambling to find housing in a very tight rental market.”

BC remains the only province in the country without a system of needs-based grants and there was no mention of the commitment to eliminate interest on student loans.

“While we applaud the restoration of free tuition for Adult Basic Education and the program of free tuition for youth aging out of foster care, BC needs a more comprehensive approach to student financial aid to ensure that cost is not a barrier for qualified students” said Johnson.

The Ministry of Advanced Education was the only core ministry to suffer cuts in the final mandate of the Liberal government. Not including inflation adjustments, BC’s research universities have suffered cuts of close to 5% over the past five years to core operating budgets.

“After 16 years of neglect by the previous Liberal government, core funding for universities is starting to lag behind national comparators. We look forward to working with this government to chart a new direction,” concluded Johnson.