TRU funding issues included in B.C. budget report

TRU, TRUFA and TRUSU talked funding, grants and adult basic education

Nathan Lane, Leif Douglass, Cole Hickson and Amber Storvold of TRUSU present budget recommendations to government in a budget consultation meeting at the Coast Kamloops Hotel and Conference Centre in September. (Submitted)

TRU’s voices were well-heard by the provincial government, with the three groups’ recommendations for more institutional funding included in the province’s Budget 2017 Consultation Report.

At the budget consultation meeting were delegations from the TRU student union, university administration, and the faculty union. The committee is made up of MLAs from multiple parties and regions of the province. The parties met in September and the report was submitted to the legislature in mid-November.

While they explored several different issues, there was one item that the groups all recommended to the committee: increase funding to TRU, which has been underfunded by $50 million according to the student union. They all point to a 15-year-old funding system as one of the reasons why the university has not received as much funding as needed.

“We have a funding model that’s about 15 years old, and when you start thinking about the changes in the last 15 years in British Columbia, an enormous number of changes have occurred,” said President and Vice Chancellor Alan Shaver to the committee, according to the meeting’s transcript.

As a result of their presentations and consultation with other communities, the standing committee recommended in their report that operational grants to universities be increased and be given in multi-year allotments to help with financial planning.

Tom Friedman, president of TRUFA, presented to the committee his stance on the need for Adult Basic Education and Adult Specialty Learning programs to be tuition-free and receive more funding.

“Funding pressures have made it increasingly difficult for TRU and other colleges and universities to provide these essential programs,” Friedman said.

The report also recommended that British Columbia puts in place a needs-based grant system for students, which was the main recommendation that TRUSU presented to the government.

Amber Storvold, vice-president external for TRUSU, is pleased by the government’s report.

“We are really excited to see those recommendations make it into the report. It’s really awesome because those are two big priorities that are big issues for students,” Storvold said.

In their written submission to the committee, TRUSU claimed that a needs-based grant system could be implemented by diverting money from the government’s contributions to individuals’ RESPs. The student union believes that government aid in RESPS only helps those who can afford to have those savings plans.

According to a 2016 Parliamentary Budget Officer report, 49 percent of federal government contributions to RESPs go to households earning more than $90,000 per year.

Storvold explained that needs-based grants would enable students to go into post-secondary studies that would not be able to otherwise and help others complete their programs.

“[RESP grants, loan remissions and tax credits] are largely not targeted towards need, so they are not very effective in helping students access or complete education,” Storvold said.

The full budget and fiscal plan will be released in February.