It might all be irrelevant at this point, given that the federal opposition may take down the government, but reaction from the education sector to Tuesday’s budget has been mostly positive. The budget included a boost to the operating budgets of Canada’s three federal research granting agencies, money for the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, another 10 Canada Excellence Research Chairs, and Genome Canada.
For students, tweaks to Canada Student Loans and Grants will see more money flow to part-time students, and allow full-time students to earn a higher income without incurring a penalty to their loans. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s budget also included $10 million to develop an international education strategy, and debt relief for doctors and nurses who promise to practice in rural areas.
Among those cheering the Tories was the Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada, whose president, Paul Davison said: “This budget represents tremendous progress for the university sector: more funding for the research councils, promotion of international educational marketing, additional support for students, and a range of measures to foster innovation and research.”
Similarly, Sheldon Levy, chair of the Council of Ontario Universities, released a statement that read: “These investments will generate positive results, both short and long-term, for our universities and for our province and most importantly for our students.”
The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations issued a response that was somewhat more tepid in its support of the budget. “The plan the Conservatives tabled will take some strain off the pocketbooks of working students, but there is still a long way to go if we are to truly create an accessible post-secondary education system,” National Zach Dayler said. CASA wanted to see more money put into student loans, relief for the cost of textbooks and measures to help aboriginal students access education.
More critical was the Canadian Federation of Students. In a statement titled “Federal budget fails to deliver affordable education for Canadians,” the CFS criticized inadequate funding for education transfers to the provinces that remain “approximately $800 million short of 1992 levels when accounting for inflation and population growth.” National Chairperson David Molenhuis called the lack of a “national strategy” for higher education, a “recipe for disaster.”
James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers bemoaned the government’s emphasis on targeted research initiatives when combined with only a “small increase” to the federal granting councils. “Research priorities are best set by the scientific community, not by politicians,” he said.