Government should rethink B.C. post-secondary funding: teachers

By The Canadian Press
September 6, 2016 - 9:46am

VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s post-secondary system is in crisis and is failing students by forcing them into careers they may not be suited for, says a group of university and college teachers.

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of British Columbia released a report Tuesday, saying that the way the government funds post-secondary education is limiting students’ access to certain programs.

George Davidson, the group’s president, said schools have been forced in recent years to fund programs that train for jobs highlighted in the province’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint, many of which are in the trades or high-tech sector.

“It’s a huge shift in the kind of programming emphasis of institutions, driven by government policy,” he said.

“We need trades jobs; I’m not denying that. But we don’t need trades jobs to the exclusion of everything else.”

Paired with long-term under funding, Davidson said the re-allocation of resources means some programs, such as transfer courses and English as a second language courses, are being cut.

The history instructor said the College of New Caledonia in Prince George, where he taught for years, went from having nine academic divisions to only three as funding was increasingly restricted. The college now offers courses in trades, health sciences and international.

“When you’re taking money from one area and moving it to another area, that means you’re not offering the stuff that was offered previously,” Davidson said.

The federation’s report said that when inflation is taken into account, the provincial government’s per-student funding has declined by more than 20 per cent since 2001.

Davidson said that as funding becomes increasingly restricted, schools have looked to students to cover costs, hiking tuition and fees, especially for international students.

“The shift in the cost of education has largely gone from the province to the backs of students and families,” he said.

But Davidson said the government doesn’t seem to care.

“We say, ‘look, let’s fix things up.’ But it’s kind of like putting Band-Aids on an elephant,” he said.

The federation, which represents teachers at dozens of schools, including Langara in Vancouver, Selkirk in Castlegar and Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, is now calling on they want the government to do a thorough review of how the post-secondary system is funded.

The Canadian Press

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