Student in debt

The provincial government’s systematic reduction in funding over the past 15 years means an increasing number of young British Columbians are unable to access or afford the post-secondary education they need to prepare themselves for the careers of their choice, according to a position paper released today by the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators (FPSE).

“We are now facing a crisis and it’s time to do something about it,” says FPSE president George Davison.

The position paper is part of FPSE’s Open the Doors campaign aimed at raising awareness of the serious threat to post-secondary education in the province.

“Thousands of students are being forced to take out massive loans to cover their ever-increasing tuition costs, and we have anecdotal evidence that many prospective students are not even bothering to enrol because they either can’t afford the fees, or the courses they want to take have been cut to save money,” says Davison.

The crisis has been caused largely by the government’s systematic reduction in post-secondary funding, he adds.

“The largest single investment the provincial government makes in post-secondary education – the per-student operating grants – has declined by more than 20 per cent since 2001, when adjusted for inflation. And with government revenues from tuition fees having increased by almost 400 per cent since 2001, the cost of post-secondary education has primarily been shifted to students.”

Funding cuts and the B.C. government’s insistence that public universities and colleges offer career streams that the government has determined as priorities under its BC’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint have compelled some institutions in smaller communities to reduce or eliminate courses and entire programs, which means students have to move to larger centres where the cost of living is higher if courses they want to take are not offered locally.

Davison says it’s ironic that the only increase in post-secondary education in recent years has been in the number of administrators, which has gone up by 50 per cent since 2002, along with their salary bill, which has almost doubled in the same period.

“It's time for a reset of post-secondary education in B.C. to ensure not only that it is adequately funded to remove some of the massive financial burden from students, but also to review our priorities in the light of the changing economic environment,” says Davison.

For example, he points of that the jobs blueprint was developed largely to prepare for the anticipated demand in skills for the LNG industry, which now appears unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future.

“The B.C. 2024 Labour Market Outlook predicts that 78 per cent of the projected one million job openings will require post-secondary education — yet the money isn’t there to enable students to access the education they need to fill those jobs,” says Davison. “The vast majority of the projected jobs will require problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and the ability to communicate effectively. Yet the programs that teach these skills are the ones that institutions are cutting to save money or focus on government’s priorities. This has to change.”

About FPSE

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 4 private sector institutions.