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CAUT Bulletin Archives

May 2011

Provincial Budgets Respond Differently to PSE Needs


The NDP government pledged multi-year funding for post-secondary institutions in its April 12 budget, citing the need to provide a stable fiscal environment. Universities and colleges will receive a five per cent boost in operating grants for each of the next three years.

Tuition fees will rise, but after last year’s five per cent increase, students hoping for tuition slack were relieved to see this year’s hike pegged to inflation.

College students will see a $100 increase in tuition fees this year.

The 2011 budget also proposes modest improvements to student bursaries and increases the number of graduate scholarships.

Nova Scotia

Despite recording a surplus of more than $400 million for 2010–2011, the provincial government’s 5 April budget continued to beat to the drum of austerity measures.

The budget contained few surprises, as Labour and Advanced Education Minister Marilyn More had already announced in February that “universities in Nova Scotia are being asked to manage within the same financial restraints that all provincial departments and agencies face.”

For universities this will mean a four per cent cut in funding this year.

“The government’s agenda is cost-cutting, pure and simple, without the slightest regard for the quality of education,” said Chris Ferns, president of the Association of Nova Scotia University Teachers. “These cuts mean fewer full-time faculty will be hired and a greater reliance on poorly-paid, underresourced, part-time contract workers, and increased class sizes.”

In addition to the cut in funding, the budget announced further reductions to operating grants to be negotiated with universities in a three-year memorandum of understanding.

“Further cuts will likely be disastrous for institutions already facing serious financial difficulties, such as the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design,” Ferns said.

“Investing in education offers a way forward for the province’s fiscal health.”

The Nova Scotia Alternative Budget 2011, released in March by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, shows that slashing $772 million from departmental budgets to meet the government’s arbitrary goal of balancing the budget by 2013 is counterproductive.

Student reaction to the proposed budget measures was mixed, with some students welcoming the government’s “debt cap” of a $28,560 maximum that will take effect in four years time, while others were disappointed the previous three-year tuition freeze was abandoned. Tuition fees will now rise by nine per cent over the next three years.

“The best way to cut debt for students is to reduce tuition fees,” said Elise Graham, chair of the Nova Scotia branch of the Canadian Federation of Students. “Students have been asking for lower tuition fees, more grants for students and more funding for university. Right now Nova Scotia students have the highest debt load on average in Canada. We’re very disappointed with the decisions the NDP government is making.”

The budget also promises to continue the $30 million in student bursaries.

“These student financial assistance measures will do nothing for the 40 per cent of students from outside the province,” Ferns said. “Meanwhile, international students are facing a 10 per cent hike and professional programs, such as med­icine and dentistry at Dalhousie University, will see increases of 10 to 14 per cent.”

Prince Edward Island

While targeting a return to fiscal balance in two years, Prince Edward Island’s 2011­–2012 budget promised an increase of three per cent for post-secondary education.

The April 6 budget also pledges $1.1 million in operating funding for Holland College’s new West Prince Regional Learning Centre.

Funding for student financial assistance remains unchanged.

Newfoundland & Labrador

The April 19 provincial budget continued the tuition freeze for the seventh year in a row, while also pledging increases in funding for infrastructure upgrades at Memorial University and College of the North Atlantic.

The budget was silent on additional student assistance measures and students hoping for lowered tuition were disappointed.

“In recent years, Newfoundland and Labrador has led the country in terms of increasing access to post-secondary education and reducing student debt while also improving quality,” said Daniel Smith, chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador branch of the Canadian Federation of Students. “However, with a large surplus, and on the heels of delivering more than 15,000 signed Fund the Future postcards to government, students were expecting more out of this budget.”

Budget 2011 allocates $3.2 million for building maintenance and $7 million for lab upgrades at College of the North Atlantic over three years. Memorial University will receive $19.8 million and $7.7 million, respectively.

The budget also announced $15.4 million over three years for employers who hire apprentices, especially from under-represented groups.