Polling Data Shows Growing Gap between Voters and Government on Post-Secondary Education

August has not been a great month for BC's Premier Clark. The results of the HST referendum showed that even in many of the BC Liberal held ridings, the majority voted to get rid of the HST, a troubling outcome for a government that wants to rebuild its approval ratings with voters. Adding to the Premier's troubles was the fact that her plan to call an early Fall election looked increasingly ill-advised. More recently, an Ipsos Reid poll, commissioned by FPSE, showed a majority of those surveyed gave the government a failing grade on their handling of post-secondary education in BC.

Rather than see the Ipsos results as a criticism of their policies to-date, the Clark government should carefully consider some of the details included in the poll, details that could provide them with a much better set of choices and outcomes in post-secondary education. For example, 92% of those surveyed see higher tuition fees as a barrier to accessing post-secondary education, 84% think student debt makes it harder to complete programs and degrees, 78% see post-secondary education as a way to improve job prospects for BC's youth, but only if government invests more in our colleges, universities and institutes and 73% make the connection between better access and affordability to post-secondary education and a high-wage-high-skill economy in BC.

For the Premier, the take-away from this polling should be "it's time to change course". For a decade the BC Liberals have opted to follow a policy and funding strategy in post-secondary education that embraced de-regulation and shifted the burden of funding onto students and institutions. No surprise then that tuition fees skyrocketed, student debt has done the same and institutional funding has failed to keep pace with either growing needs or basic inflation. A decade into this approach and we see opportunities lost as students face significant financial barriers to access the skills, training and knowledge that will build BC's future.

The Premier wants to develop policies that reflect the views and priorities of British Columbians. She wants to "do politics differently." And so she should. The Ipsos results present a clear alternative to what the BC Liberals have followed for the last ten years. In the coming months FPSE will be pressing MLAs, Cabinet Ministers, Legislative Committees and Ministry officials to recognize the opportunities to invest in our institutions in ways that will make a difference to our students and their future. Hopefully, the Premier will recognize those opportunities and chart a new course for her government.

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.