Universities will not receive funding increase from the province.
The provincial budget released by New Brunswick Finance Minister Blaine Higgs on March 26 calls for significant tax hikes, the largest since 1983. But despite the planned increase in revenue, the budget still details a freeze on provincial funds for post-secondary institutions.
“We find that the cutbacks in university operating grants that the minister announced are inconsistent with the government’s overall economic plans,” said Rick Hudson, president of the Federation of New Brunswick Faculty Associations (FNBFA). “If we really intend to move forward to improve the province’s economy, we will need highly trained personnel.”
Criticism has been heaped on the fiscal plan, which includes a 1.8 per cent decrease in funding to the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, by educators across the province.
“What the public may not realize is that our educational programs have been shrinking for years,” said humanities and languages professor and Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers president Miriam Jones. “How can we expect to offer programs and degrees if we don’t have the resources to offer students appropriate courses?”
Jones said there has to be some common sense somewhere along the line in this.
“In order to be categorized as a comprehensive university, an institution has to offer a spectrum of programs across a wide variety of fields. And the status, the category, of a university is crucial for all sorts of things, like rankings and grants,” she said. “If the New Brunswick government is serious about encouraging prosperity, they cannot turn around and gut the very institutions our youth depend upon to build their futures.”
The budget also neglects to address the escalating costs of a university degree. New Brunswick is the second most expensive place in Canada to go to university.
FNBFA executive director Elisabeth Hans said “the issue of student debt still has not received an adequate response. This is a looming issue that will affect the province more and more until it is dealt with.”