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B.C. Premier grilled on gutted grant system

Non-repayable grants have plummeted from 27 to 12 percent since 2004


 

After being grilled by a group of students last week, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell is dismissing questions regarding the relatively low proportion of non-repayable grants to student loans in the province.

The questions were asked two days after a report by the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation showed that the proportion of grants, money that students aren’t required to pay back, is rising in other provinces.

The foundation revealed that non-repayable grants now make up just 12 percent of British Columbia’s aid, down from 27 percent in 2004 and the lowest proportion in the country. In Manitoba, 48 per cent of student aid is non-repayable.

Nationwide, the proportion of loans to grants has more than doubled in the past 15 years, now making up 30 per cent of total aid. A big portion of that increase came from Ontario, where the McGuinty Liberals began offering up to $3,000 per year to students from low-income families in 2005.

That was the same year that Campbell’s Liberals nixed grants for students from low-income homes in B.C. The grants were replaced by a program designed to help graduates reduce their debt load; this costs the taxpayers less than half as much as the grants did.

But Campbell emphasized that money is being invested in building universities instead.

“Everyone would like a grant,” said Campbell during a press conference at the UBC School of Journalism. “But the fact of the matter is, [the province] is paying somewhere between 75 percent and 80 percent of the costs.”

According to Campbell, building and expanding university infrastructure gets “the best value for students,” and increases access to education. He pointed to new campuses in Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo and the Fraser Valley that have each received hundreds of millions of dollars in provincial funding. Building new schools also reduces transportation costs for students, said Campbell.

B.C.’s recent approach to post-secondary education spending echoes Ontario’s approach in the late 1990s. The Mike Harris government spent billions on lecture halls and science labs through the SuperBuild Fund while shying away from individual student grants.

Meanwhile, B.C.’s opposition New Democrats are campaigning on restoring some of the money that had been dished out to students from low-income households up until 2005. The NDP platform includes $250 million in new grant spending and a 50 percent cut to the interest rate paid on the province’s portion of student loans.

BC voters head to the polls May 12.


 

B.C. Premier grilled on gutted grant system

  1. “According to Campbell, building and expanding university infrastructure gets “the best value for students,” and increases access to education.”

    Now that government has apparently finally admitted defeat on its exaggerated claims of funding increases to BC universities and colleges, we have their new line — buildings are more important that adequate student financial aid or a sufficient number of professors.

    Give me a break!

    It really is amazing that up until March of this year, post-secondary education was pretty much a consistent good news story for Mr. Campbell’s government. Since the surprise reduction of the operating grants in mid-March. the government has managed to stumble from one mistake to another.

    At this point, it looks like that instead of basking in its achievements in post-secondary education (and there are many) in the lead up to the May 2009 election, the government is going to be occupied doing damage control on problems it created for itself. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

    Someone in Mr. Campbell’s inner circle is either asleep at the switch or is making horrendous miscalculations about the responses from students, faculty members and the public to the government’s policies.

    I offer the same advice to Mr. Campbell now as I did last April — admit you’ve made mistakes, restore the $50 million cut from the system, bring the post-secondary system stakeholders together to talk about how your government should proceed from here, come up with a reasonable plan of action, and stick by your promises. It really is that simple.

  2. HAVING A SCHOOL CLOSE TO WHERE THE STUDENT LIVES …ALLOWING FOR SOME TIME FOR THE STUDENT TO WORK PART TIME AND TO CARRY THE WORK LOAD…IS A HUGE BENEFIT…IF THE CHILD IS BRIGHT.AND A UNIVERSITY STUDENT OR ANY POST SECONDARY STUDENT CAN DO A JOB AND DO SCHOOL…MANY OF THE CLASS LOADS SEEM REALLY LIGHT TO WHAT I WAS EXPECTING….NOT HAVING TO PAY ROOM AND BOAD IN A NEW LOCATION IS HUGE…I TIE MY FINACIAL HELP FOR MY RELATIVE TO PASSING GRADES…THIS HELPS KEEP THE GOAL IN MIND….THE URGE TO PARTY IF SOMEONE ELSE IS PAYING THE BILL……WITH NO CONSEQUENCES……………..CAN RUIN THE EDUCATION.

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