Canadian Fedwatch! News Across the Nation

Provinces Funding Less than Half

Statistics Canada released its annual report (http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/040819/d040819a.htm) on university finances last week, and it’s not a pretty picture. Notable is that nationally, students contribute over 20% of the total revenues of universities across the nation. While that doesn’t seem like much, this number is skewed because in Quebec, where tuition remains locked, students are contributing less than half of that amount, only about 10% of their respective universities’ revenue totals.

What is also interesting, however, is that the Provinces are providing less than half of the funding universities receive, and of that money, more and more of it is being directed toward creating more buildings and purchasing land. This, of course, is no surprise to regular readers of my ramblings, but Statistics Canada can now prove it. Over one year, the amount devoted to increasing lands and buildings rose by 39%, which is the largest rise among all university expenditures and one that has tripled in the last five years. Am I the only one that doesn’t see how buildings magically enable people to afford a post-secondary education?

The federal government contributes about 12% of the total revenue for universities nationally, nearly all of it directed into research rather than supporting people getting an education. Just in case you were wondering, Statistics Canada also points out that the only province that federal funding actually fell in was Alberta, by 6%. According to CASA, Premier Martin has promised 7 or 8 billion dollars to be put into direct transfer payments to the universities, however, if this follows current trends from the federal government, these payments will once again be earmarked for sponsored research rather than actually making education more accessible.

There is one bright side to all of this though. The money going to universities is actually increasing again, as opposed to decreasing as it was through most of the 1990s. Too bad it’s students that are having to shoulder the largest share of the increase.

BC Gives with Right, Takes with Left

The Advanced Education Minister, Shirley Bond, has another left hook for post-secondary students in BC, but is trying to at least make it look nice before it hits them. Under the title of “New Loan Reduction Program to Assist Students in Need” (http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/nrm_news_releases/2004MAE0040-000656.htm) she’s managed to provide BC students with something fairly common across the country, the concept of remission.

Basically, the provincial student finance system will now pay back a part of your loan after you successfully complete the year. It’s a nice gesture, but while we’re watching the right hand, she sneaks in the left hook. As stated in the press release, “effective in August 2004, all students who were eligible for loans and grants under a previous program will automatically receive the same funding but strictly in loans.” That’s right folks, your loans will be reduced at the end of the year, but now your funding is all in loans, no grants. What’s more, since the reduction is tied to successful completion, if you happen not to complete a year successfully for any reason you’re on the hook for all of it.

Long story short? Taking funding for a post-secondary education is now riskier in BC than it was before this happy announcement, especially for those students who are disabled or have high-needs — the very students that Ms. Bond admits this change is targeting. As these students are often those that have more difficulty successfully completing a year (working two jobs to make ends meet can have an effect on your grades, after all) the elimination of their grants means that if they have some personal tragedy or circumstance that prevents them from finishing, not only do they have the bad record, they also have the full cost to pay. At this point, either Ms. Bond doesn’t like her job, or she’s simply completely secure in the apathy of post-secondary students to politics. That’s the only explanation I can think of.

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