Since the start of the fall semester, the TRU Faculty Association has collected 700 signatures from faculty members, community members, students and staff who want fair per-student funding at TRU, according to TRUFA president Tom Friedman.
Though TRUFA has completed its collection of signatures, with their last day of tabling taking place in Old Main on Oct. 4, the “Fair Funding for TRU” campaign is far from over.
“The next stage will be lobbying, using these signatures as a way to show support,” Friedman said. “So on the 24th of October, in Victoria, the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators is going to have a reception for MLAs. It is an opportunity for us to talk somewhat informally to our MLAs. In November, two or three of us from TRUFA, including myself, will be meeting with Peter Milobar and Todd Stone.”
TRU currently receives some of the lowest per-student funding in the province, Friedman said. According to last year’s Fund the Future campaign by TRUSU, TRU receives $1,500 less on average than other institutions in the province, and was ranked 20th of 25 universities and colleges for per-student funding.
Part of the reason for funding placement comes from a deal the university cut with the provincial government 12 years ago when the University College of the Cariboo became Thompson Rivers University, Friedman said.
“The deal that was made with the provincial government at that time, was to give us the name ‘university’ and we won’t ask for any more money,” Friedman said. “I think students and the community and faculty are paying the price for that.”
TRU is part of a number of special purpose teaching institutions around the province, including other schools like Kwantlen Polytechnic and Vancouver Island University, which are considered “second-tier” to research universities like UBC and SFU, Friedman said. While TRU has faculty that conduct research in order to support the university’s programs, TRU isn’t in the bracket of research universities.
On top of this, TRU is also mandated to meet the educational needs of the region. While the same is true for many institutions in B.C., TRU in particular has to meet the needs of a fairly large region.
“Now the region is big and you have a disparity there,” Friedman said. “You might have Langara college in Vancouver, which does not have a regional mandate, yet their per=student funding is very similar to ours.”
These problems with how funding is allocated isn’t just a concern for TRU, Friedman said, but a concern of many rural universities and colleges throughout the province. Despite this, Friedman said TRU has pushed hardest out of all B.C. institutions to get the government to review their funding process.
“What we have been talking to the government about is to have a review of the formula that is used to generate the funding, and have it reflect more of what we are obliged to do,” he said. “I think certainly TRUSU’s Fund the Future campaign and senior administration’s lobbying is very much in the same direction. So three components of our TRU community are all pushing in the same direction.”
The effects of underfunding have already been felt at TRU in the form of larger class sizes and fewer course offerings, Friedman said.
Yet he believes that if it continues, underfunding will affect not only the university, but all of the Kamloops community.
“There is a community cost to that. Students are not entering the workforce as early as they might, and then of course without adequate funding, tuition fees have to go up regularly and student debt increases.”