Drought Continues For Post-Secondary Education in 2014

Faculty say flat budget and tougher mandates will squeeze students and institutions

“Between the Minister Virk’s mandate letter priorities and the spending estimates for Advanced Education in the Finance Minister’s budget, colleges, universities and institutes will continue to see tighter operating budgets over the next three years,” said Cindy Oliver, President of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators.  Oliver was reacting to news in the 2014 provincial budget that the province’s largest single investment in post-secondary education, the provincial operating grant, will remain flat for the next three years.

“If this year’s flat-line approach to funding post-secondary institutions was an exception, the squeeze on our institutions might be tolerable.  However, the trend in underfunding post-secondary education has been a decade-long pattern,” Oliver added.  “It’s hard to see how the government hopes to achieve the opportunities in post-secondary education with the funding regime it is implementing with this budget,” Oliver stressed.  Per-student operating grants continue to fall in both absolute and relative terms Oliver pointed out.  “By 2016, real per-student operating grants will have dropped by more than 20 per cent since 2001, when the BC liberals took office and began to overhaul the core funding that our institutions receive from the provincial treasury,” Oliver noted.

“The priorities identified in the Minister’s mandate letter indicate that further pressures to rein in spending at post-secondary institutions will dominate the agenda in our sector over the next year.  The priorities include a system-wide core review as well as a further push to look at service consolidation.  The Ministry also forecasts a substantial increase in international students—almost a 40 per cent increase over the three-year time frame included in the service plan—a trend line that’s difficult to square with overall flat-line projection for the number of students enrolled in post-secondary institutions over the next three years,” Oliver added.  “The government’s stated goal of increasing the number of international students seems at odds with the cuts to key support services like English Language Training programs,” Oliver said.  “Moreover, if international student enrolments are moving up dramatically while overall enrolments are flat, it raises some obvious questions about whether the increase in international students is in some way displacing domestic enrolments,” Oliver concluded.

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 12 private sector institutions.