Government to fund more student spots

by Stephen Forgacs
Staff writer

UBC's financial outlook for the 1998/99 academic year is becoming clearer following the provincial government's announcement earlier this month of a continued tuition fee freeze and additional funding to B.C. colleges and universities to add new spaces for students.

UBC President Martha Piper said that while she doesn't yet know how much funding UBC will receive for new student spaces, the provincial government's financial commitment to post-secondary education is good for the province.

"I'm extremely pleased with the focus on post-secondary education in B.C.," Piper said. "It positions B.C. favorably within the country . . . it's very important as we move forward in a knowledge-based economy."

B.C.'s post-secondary institutions will receive a $26-million increase in funding for 1998/99, including $17.5 million to add 2,900 new spaces for students, announced Premier Glen Clark and Minister of Advanced Education, Training and Technology Andrew Petter on March 9.

The new funding is in addition to the $13.4 million increase to student financial assistance announced earlier, meaning the total budget for the post-secondary sector rises by $39 million.

"These increases reflect our conviction that investment in education is critical to providing opportunities for B.C.'s young people, and to building a strong economy for our province," said Clark.

In a move that Clark said is aimed at ensuring British Columbians have
access to post-secondary education, the government extended its province-wide tuition freeze for a third consecutive year.

In recent years, UBC and other B.C. post-secondary institutions have been asked to increase the number of students admitted annually without an accompanying increase in funding. The university budget for the 1997/98 fiscal year saw the university trim $8.6 million in spending, a cut of 2.5 per cent from the previous year. The General Purpose Operating Fund, representing revenues from the provincial grant, tuition and other sources, was $340,281,000 in 1997/98 and the university projects a net accumulated deficit of $3.5 million at the end of the current fiscal year.

In a memorandum to campus dated March 5, Piper stated that significant steps are required in the 1998/99 budget to address a "serious financial shortfall."

"In the coming year some budget reductions will be inevitable as we address the budget deficit and balance the budget for 1998/99," she wrote.

The university will address the shortfall through a one-year delay in filling a proportion of faculty and staff vacant positions, a reduction in non-salary expenditures and administrative efficiencies. Rehiring of faculty and staff will resume in 1999/2000 and 2000/01.