Universities get boost in latest provincial budget

Government gives more money to core funding and research while maintaining tuition fees at current levels

by Andy Poon staff writer

B.C.'s latest budget offered good news for the province's universities and colleges as Finance Minister Paul Ramsey increased core funding by $85-million for advanced education and created more than 5,000 new spots for students at post-secondary institutions across the province.

"It's a very pro-university budget," says UBC President Martha Piper. "They really have made a significant injection into the operating grants of universities."

Piper called the government's move to add $117-million over the next three years to the province's $100-million Knowledge Development Fund "a significant enhancement" to research.

Ramsey, who prior to politics worked for 20 years as a college and university instructor and administrator, also scored high marks from current and prospective post-secondary students with the announcement that tuition fees in B.C. would remain set at current levels for another year.

"To keep the doors of our universities and colleges open to all, this budget continues B.C.'s tuition freeze for a fifth straight year," said Ramsey. "The freeze has helped enrolment grow faster in B.C. than anywhere else in Canada."

Ramsey noted that full-time university enrolment in 1999 was up 18.4 per cent over 1992--a growth rate of nearly 10 times the national average.

Much of the excitement surrounding the 5,025 new student spaces to be created at a cost of $39-million centres on the 800 spaces earmarked for high-tech programs and 400 for nursing students. The budget also revealed that a capital development fund of $133-million will be used to build new colleges, universities and other institutions as well as to upgrade existing infrastructure.

The budget drew a positive response from The University Presidents' Council of B.C.--an organization which represents the province's six universities--which had been calling upon both the provincial and federal governments to address shortfalls in funding for universities.

"The provincial budget included commitments to improving core funding support levels for universities, increasing educational opportunities for students enrolling in B.C. universities and to expanding our research and innovation capacity," noted council President Don Avison.