As Tim mentioned below, the BC government had decided to reshuffle this year’s post secondary education money, as reported in the Vancouver Sun. The result is that universities lose out on a percentage or two of funding and smaller colleges and professional schools get a boost. UBC specifically is losing 8.7 million dollars from its general operating budget, and SFU about 4 million. In today’s Ubyssey, the AMS VP External Stef Ratjen has a letter condemning this decision (click!). And she makes alot of good points. Thing is, if you step out of the reactionary mindset of a UBC student that’s just been shafted, this decision makes a whole lot of sense. To get a few things straight: this isn’t a cut to post-secondary education, it’s a redistribution from what the schools were told to expect for this year. Since the budgeting work for the coming fiscal year is mostly done on the basis of those expectations, it is a bit of a shock. As it says in the article, UBC (and all schools) are still getting more money than last year, event after the redistribution.

The Campus 2020 vision laid out ambitious goals in terms of accessibility and especially aboriginal participation in PSE. This shift in funds is strategically targeted in a way that makes sense with that. In the Sun article it says that the money is for recruiting aboriginal students and increasing programs that are relevant to the current job market. Colleges and professional schools are better positioned for those purposes than we are, as a big research-based institution. They’re not as costly to attend, and the less centralized location and more direct application to the job market makes them more accessible to non-urban communities. Campus 2020 doesn’t just talk about UBC and SFU – it’s a more holistic document. And to really address accessibility, funding a diversity of more “practical” programs is a good approach. We need to get off of our high horse and realize that UBC isn’t the be-all and end-all of higher education. If we don’t have infinity resources, others benefiting from funding will sometimes result in UBC losing out a bit. And I can live with that.

The troubling thing is that knowing UBC, the shortfall probably won’t come out of things students would care the least about. Expensive institutional constructions projects? check. Good and improving quality of education? Still missing.


12 Comments so far

  1. tariq on March 25, 2008 10:13 pm

    I guess I have a “reactionary mindset”, but I think the real problem here isn’t how the pie is sliced, but really what the size of the pie is. Is more money needed in other areas? Absolutely, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of UBC and other universities which are already over-funded by students and under-funded by the government. If these cuts are a “pretty good idea” I have to ask, what should be cut? Or who should pay more?

    This is another example of what is really a failure to prioritize post-secondary education disguised, very superficially, as stewardship. This government is doing a pretty poor job, particularly in its second term, of putting its money where its photo-ops are.

    I’m not aware of UBC’s response, but this is the release from our cousins across the across the Salish Sea:

  2. Alfie on March 25, 2008 10:58 pm

    omg, this is just to add another straw to the already crumbling university’s finance.

  3. Anonymous on March 26, 2008 3:59 am

    Maayan, I am so glad you posted this. I couldn’t agree more. I think that funding trades/vocational schools makes a lot of sense because it makes people much more employable. And then those people will be able to participate in the economy, rather than being a drain on resources by receiving welfare checks. I am not blaming anyone for being on welfare; I don’t think it’s a choice that anyone would make. In my view, the government needs to get a lot more down-to-earth with regards to thinking about the education system and expand the post-secondary options available to people of all skill sets and background. Rather than just focusing on the two big universities, which are attended only by the top nth percentile of high school graduates. The fact that someone even goes to UBC means, in many cases, that they were reasonably well off to begin with. There are, of course, exceptions. But what I am seeing happen, is that people from upper-class and middle-class families are getting access to great quality education, which will in turn make them more prosperous… while others lack access to education that is appropriate for them, and so face a real challenge in improving their standard of living.

    In response to Tariq, I think I’m looking at things assuming that there is only a limited amount of money that can go into post-secondary education. That’s the assumption I’m starting with, and this is something you might challenge, by saying that money could be redirected from other parts of the budget.

    But I don’t see how one can reasonably argue that UBC/SFU deserve money at the expense of other schools which offer much more practical programs. I see trade schools, in particular, as a valuable resource in helping people out of poverty. Someone who is poor is likely not going to come to UBC for a four-year degree. Vocational schools seem much more realistic.

    I hate to sound like the Knolligarchy, but I think that the government chose to took a step to reduce poverty in the province, which is, in my opinion, more important than producing huge numbers of intellectuals. Not to mention that some of the degrees UBC hands out are downright useless.

  4. Patrick Meehan on March 26, 2008 9:23 am

    So in the wake of massive defecits on the part of both UBC and SFU, we’re seeing them cutting funding AFTER the universities have completed their budgeting processes for the year?


    In two years, because of financial restraints, SFU has had to cut its TA department in half. IN HALF.

    THATS a problem.

    I say good on Uvic for taking the stand where its due.

    Yes, colleges deserve more funding, but not at the expense of universities, and certainly not without proper notice so it can be worked into a budget.

  5. Anonymous on March 26, 2008 1:44 pm

    Thanks for this post Maayan. When we first hear the words ‘funding cuts’ – of course students react, but I think it’s really important to look at the big picture to see what PSE in BC is all about, for everyone.

  6. Steven Klein on March 27, 2008 6:46 am

    To both anonymouses and Maayan:

    Here’s a shocking idea: Let’s fund ALL post-secondary education adequately.

  7. Philip on March 27, 2008 7:14 pm

    As a UBC student I don’t like to see funding reduced for UBC and UBC won’t become the “global” university Toope hopes it will become if UBC starts losing funding from the provice. However, I do appreciate the level approach that the UBC Insiders are taking on the issue and admitting that there is merit in other post-secondary options in BC.

    A small correction… at last night’s Senate meeting the Provost, David Farrar, said that the university had calculated the cut would amount to an $11.2 million cut to UBC.

    Blake F asked Farrar if the university admin had communicated with the AMS about the cut and UBC’s strategy is response to the cut. The answer was no.

  8. Anonymous on March 29, 2008 8:47 am

    So the advanced education system is facing across-the-board cuts in funding and in seats, to create more seats in programs that feed more obviously into jobs where there haven’t been enough workers recently.

    First off, someone has clearly decided that our province needs more human widgets, and fewer broadly-trained, adaptable, critical thinking types. If this is to be a “knowledge economy”, and if people are expected to change careers repeatedly, this might not be a good long-term strategy.

    First-and-a-halfth, I seem to recall Campus 2020 suggesting that we needed to strengthen the large research universities, not cripple them. (It suggested strengthening the entire system, but it looked like a pretty large fraction of new money would be going to the research universities).

    Second, this is the government deciding what we need more graduates in, based on shortages we’ve had over the past few years. The Olympic construction is ending, and the US-driven North American economy is slowing — are we actually going to need these people in 4-5 years when they start graduating? This government’s prophesy record isn’t great. About 6-7 years ago, they targeted comp sci and electrical engineering, right around when the tech bubble burst. We couldn’t find students to fill the comp sci seats created.

    Third observation: 3-4 years ago, the government proudly created UBC Okanagan, an act they’ve been trumpeting ever since. The plan was to double the campus in about five years. They’re cutting seats equivalent to 8% of the current full-time-equivalent students at that campus. Hmm…

  9. maayan kreitzman on March 31, 2008 6:23 pm

    Steven – what would you like to cut in order to do this?

    Anon 1:47 – I agree that having government make decisions about what’s needed and what’s not is problematic, especially since alot of “higher education” is more like industry training. I can’t relly think of a good way to prevent it though, as long as they’re holding hte purse strings.

  10. tristan on July 23, 2008 5:34 am

    there were massive cuts to many colleges as well.

  11. Term papers on January 27, 2010 6:19 am

    nice post.

  12. Term papers on January 27, 2010 6:19 am

    I seem to recall Campus 2020 suggesting that we needed to strengthen the large research universities, not cripple them.

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