University funding in need of an update

TRUSU's Fund the Future campaign looks to address an outdated funding model

The formula for government funding of B.C. post-secondary education has not been reviewed in almost a decade and TRUSU hopes to change that.

This past week, TRUSU has been gathering signatures for its Fund the Future campaign. According to TRUSU VP External Amber Storvold, “Fund the Future is basically a campaign to address the issue of government under-funding for TRU.”

Currently, TRU receives $2,000 less per student than the average B.C. institution, according to TRUSU.

B.C. post-secondary institutions receive an operating grant from the provincial government on a per-student basis, but the amounts vary, and TRUSU says the rationale behind the funding formula is unclear.

Over the past 10 years, per-student funding for TRU has decreased, yet the university has undergone a number of changes.

“We’ve changed a lot, we’ve expanded a lot and I definitely think it’s time for a reevaluation,” Storvold said.

Kathy Corrigan, New Democrat opposition spokesperson for Advanced Education, agrees.

“I don’t understand the formula entirely. I don’t think anyone does… [it] certainly needs to be reviewed, but it’s only a part of the bigger issue of post-secondary education,” Corrigan said.

She sees it as only one factor in the bigger trend of students paying more for tuition and government paying less. Corrigan believes that this leads to a growing inequality of access to advanced education and puts financial pressure on the institutions.

Matt Milovick, TRU’s VP of administration and finance, is keenly aware of that pressure.

“The funding doesn’t reflect the type of university that we are,” Milovick said.

There is no grant funding available for graduate studies, law school or science masters programs, to name only a few areas. TRU has dealt with the lack of funding in part through international student fees, which make up almost 40 per cent of tuition revenue.

He added that the government is aware of the problem, but lacks the will to act.

“Pretty much every time we’re in Victoria meeting with government we raise this as an issue,” Milovick said.

And TRU is not alone, according to Milovick. Presidents of other institutions are doing the same thing.

While this is not the first time TRUSU has raised the issue, this year Storvold hopes to go beyond educating the community. The eventual plan is to meet with campus stakeholders, get the media involved and meet with local MLAs to push for change.

While there is still work to do, all parties seem hopeful that a review is imminent. As Milovick pointed out, “when [the provincial government] hears a concerted effort from student unions and faculty associations, I think that helps to bolster the case.”