New Brunswick’s 2010 budget, released by the Liberal government last month, promises an infusion of funding for post-secondary education in the form of a tuition freeze, a 3 per cent increase in university operating grants and a $15 million infrastructure investment for the province’s four public universities.
Linda Lequin, president of the Federation of New Brunswick Faculty Associations, says while the budget has some good elements, there is a continuing failure to ensure universities are funded at sustainable levels.
“We applaud any action that will help student accessibility,” Lequin said, but the operating grants increase of 3 per cent, “while welcome, may not be enough even to maintain the status quo.”
According to FNBFA, operating grants for universities in New Brunswick only inched up 7 per cent between 1999 and 2008 compared with almost 44 per cent nationally, and New Brunswick’s investment has been the lowest of all Atlantic provinces.
Provincial grant funding rose by 22 per cent in Nova Scotia, 29 per cent in Prince Edward Island and 60 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador over the same time period.
Lequin says the chronic underfunding is creating a serious situation for the province’s universities. “We are building new buildings and renovating old ones with capital stimulus funding,” she said. “But without more stable, realistic operations funding, those buildings will continue to house ever larger classes because universities will remain unable to replace retiring professors, and universities in New Brunswick will fail to meet the needs of a 21st century knowledge economy.”