The current state of TRU’s provincial funding has left the university administration, faculty association and student government wary about TRU’s ability to meet its mandate.
A joint statement from the TRU Student Union (TRUSU), the TRU Faculty Association (TRUFA) and university administration was presented to the B.C. government’s standing committee on finance and government services on Sept. 17. The statement claims that TRU’s needs have changed since its funding model was planned, and as a result the university can no longer meet its mandate as an institution.
Co-operative education, academic advising, the math and writing centres and summer school are all named in the report as services in need of greater funding. TRU’s Masters’ programs and research initiatives are also underfunded.
Tom Friedman, TRUFA’s president, said that many of TRU’s active researchers require external grants. Friedman also said that TRU doesn’t receive any funding for graduate students, making it difficult to offer them the TA positions and stipends necessary to succeed in their education.
The report mentions that more funding is needed to ensure access to education for TRU’s non-traditional learners, including those “supporting families while studying, working while studying or accessing education from remote areas.”
TRUSU’s portion of the budget submission deals with alleviating the financial burden on these students.
“TRUSU’s main role in the budget submission was to talk about tuition fees, financial aid and funding, and how that can improve completion, transition and participation rates for students and their families,” said TRUSU VP external Amber Storvold.
TRU also operates satellite campuses in Williams Lake and other remote communities, something Friedman said is already showing cause for concern.
“There’s also a real concern about our ability to continue Williams Lake programs. We have a regional responsibility and the campus at Williams Lake has seen cuts. We’ve had a decrease in the number of tenured faculty, programs being cut and courses being cancelled,” Friedman said.
According to Friedman, the University of the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island University, and Kwantlen University (all of which are similar in size and funding to TRU) have a legislative mandate that is different from TRU’s, and they all serve smaller regions.
TRU’s funding model was last reviewed in 2004 when it was awarded university status. According to Friedman, the administration at the time assumed that the new status would bring in enough new enrollment and revenue that more funding would not be necessary.
There will be no feedback about the future of TRU’s government funding until the Budget Committee’s official report. The committee receives their final submissions in late October.
Friedman was realistic about TRU’s chances of receiving more funding, saying that “many of the committee’s recommendations are not approved by government,” but warned that TRU’s “comprehensive nature is potentially jeopardized” if more funding is not received.