Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Budget "cuts" are a pretty good idea.

As Tim mentioned below, the BC government had decided to reshuffle this year's post secondary education money, as reported in the Vancouver Sun. The result is that universities lose out on a percentage or two of funding and smaller colleges and professional schools get a boost. UBC specifically is losing 8.7 million dollars from its general operating budget, and SFU about 4 million. In today's Ubyssey, the AMS VP External Stef Ratjen has a letter condemning this decision (click!). And she makes alot of good points. Thing is, if you step out of the reactionary mindset of a UBC student that's just been shafted, this decision makes a whole lot of sense. To get a few things straight: this isn't a cut to post-secondary education, it's a redistribution from what the schools were told to expect for this year. Since the budgeting work for the coming fiscal year is mostly done on the basis of those expectations, it is a bit of a shock. As it says in the article, UBC (and all schools) are still getting more money than last year, event after the redistribution.

The Campus 2020 vision laid out ambitious goals in terms of accessibility and especially aboriginal participation in PSE. This shift in funds is strategically targeted in a way that makes sense with that. In the Sun article it says that the money is for recruiting aboriginal students and increasing programs that are relevant to the current job market. Colleges and professional schools are better positioned for those purposes than we are, as a big research-based institution. They're not as costly to attend, and the less centralized location and more direct application to the job market makes them more accessible to non-urban communities. Campus 2020 doesn't just talk about UBC and SFU - it's a more holistic document. And to really address accessibility, funding a diversity of more "practical" programs is a good approach. We need to get off of our high horse and realize that UBC isn't the be-all and end-all of higher education. If we don't have infinity resources, others benefiting from funding will sometimes result in UBC losing out a bit. And I can live with that.

The troubling thing is that knowing UBC, the shortfall probably won't come out of things students would care the least about. Expensive institutional constructions projects? check. Good and improving quality of education? Still missing.