BC’s surplus leaves universities agog

With so much cash on hand, why were univ budgets cut?

The recent annoucement that the B.C. Liberals are swimming in a $3 billion surplus has the opposition NDP, university administrators, students, and faculty screaming.

Readers will recall that in March, the B.C. government reduced expected transfers to the province’s institutions of post-secondary education across the board by 2.6 per cent, or, roughly, $50 million. That decision has forced universities and colleges to make sweeping cuts to make up for the shortfall, and the president of the University of Northern British Columbia quit because he did not want to be a scapegoat.

In light of the surplus, surely student groups will be calling for money to be rediverted back into universities? And they are. Well, sort of. According to the Nanaimo Daily News, the Malaspina University College Vancouver Island University Students’ Union is calling for the surplus to be used to lower tuition.

I’m not sure how funding tuition decreases is suppose to help boost an institution’s operating budget. But hey, what would university politics be without student government reflexively calling for lower tuition? But never mind that.

The Daily News article contained a number of comments from those huffing about the budget surplus, and today the minister of education, Murray Coell, replied. Coell begins by slamming the paper, implying it is an agent of the NDP. A CanWest paper in bed with the NDP? Really? Izzy Asper must be rolling in his grave.

The minister wrote: “Once again, I see the Daily News relying on NDP spin doctors who continue to work mischief with their assertions that B.C.’s post-secondary institutions have suffered a cutback.”

Coell does have a point. The funding shortfall was not a cutback per se. No, it was a last minute reduction in promised funding. Which amounts to the same thing as, what’s the word — a cutback

The government had implemented a three year funding formula so that universities could better plan for the future. But, the wind kind of gets knocked out of the idea when institutions are told they will be getting millions less than promised. And, at the precise moment when university budgets are being finalized for the following year, no doubt.

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