British Columbia Finance Minister Mike de Jong’s provincial budget has attracted criticism over the plan for post-secondary institutions. Among other things, the budget tabled Feb. 19 calls for $46 million in cuts to the Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation, and Technology.
“The budget lacks both credibility and vision, especially when it comes to post-secondary education,” said Cindy Oliver, president of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of B.C. “At a time when everyone, business leaders included, agrees that we need to invest more in post-secondary education, this budget forecasts not only a drop in provincial operating grants, but also a decline in student support services and capital spending in our institutions.”
Critics warn that decreased investment in post-secondary education will increase the burden on current and future students.
“The provincial government perpetuates the myth that its cuts to the operating grants for universities, colleges and institutes will have no effect on students,” said Robert Clift, executive director of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of B.C. “Students have already lost support services and learning opportunities due to inadequate funding and these new cuts will shortchange them even further.”
Proposals for increasing tuition fees are also a cause for concern.
“The only increases we see in this budget are in tuition revenue which is projected to increase by close to $100 million over the next three years, an increase that will put even more barriers between students and the post-secondary education they need,” Oliver noted.
Nor are opponents satisfied with the new B.C. Training and Education Savings Grant, which Clift portrayed as a “cynical gimmick.” The one-time grant from the government deposits $1,200 into Registered Education Savings Plan accounts for children when they turn six.
According to Clift, “using the government’s numbers, the value of the government’s contribution will fall $466 short of the tuition fee increase. Using more realistic calculations, the gap is $819.”
Oliver said she’s concerned that “if this is Premier Christy Clark’s vision for the future, it sends a
troubling message to students, educators and every community in our province.”