BC Student Support Programs cut by $34 million

UPDATED: Eventually, high school students will realize that debt will be a bigger issue if they stay in BC

CLARIFICATION: Our claim that $34 million had been removed from Student Support Programs is inaccurate. The Ministry of Advanced Education has split into the Ministry of Science and Universities, which is responsible for universities, and the Ministry of Regional Economic and Skills Development which is now responsible for colleges. Prior budgets included supports for both university and college students under the same ministry. They are now listed under separate departmental budgets. We regret the error.

With a new Premier of British Columbia set to be elected by the BC Liberal party at the end of this month, a lame-duck provincial budget was almost a certainty.

And it was, for the most part. A $600 million contingency fund was put in place for the next premier, but otherwise, this was a status quo budget, with no real winners or losers in any department.

Well, except for post-secondary students. Their programs for financial assistance were cut by $34 million.

In the budget estimates which need to be voted on, there’s a line item for “Student Support Programs”, which provide, and I quote:

financial, income and other assistance to and for students including scholarships, bursaries, loan forgiveness programs, transfers to students, and transfers for initiatives that enhance student performance and access. Costs may be recovered from organizations and the federal government for payments administered on their behalf for programs described within this sub-vote.

Now, here’s the amount of (rounded to the nearest million) money budgeted for that over the past four years.

2008: $132 million

2009: $99 million

2010: $84 million

2011: $50 million

Depressed yet? Consider that the student loan repayment program is considered to be abysmal, or that the government has also canceled the provincial grant program, that the Vancouver area is ridiculously expensive to live in, or that there isn’t even a ministry for post-secondary education anymore (it’s now “Science and Universities”) and you can see why student leaders are furious. The government, as it did during its throne speech, will trumpet the fact that there are more universities than ever before and that press releases from the Canadian Federation of Students don’t tell the whole story and so on.

But you know what? Ultimately, whomever is elected the next BC Premier will have to do a much better job of engaging on the issue, and at least pretending to give a hoot. Or at the very least, notifying student leaders before they make cuts (which they haven’t done in the past, and didn’t do today). Because eventually, high school students will click into the fact that debt will be a bigger issue if they stay in BC than any other province in Canada, and adjust accordingly.

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