This week, student representatives from across BC travelled to Victoria to meet with government decision makers to discuss issues facing students, including the urgent need for investments in the province’s post-secondary sector, and to push for meaningful change.
The Federation, joined by representatives from the British Columbia Institute of Technology Student Association and the Student Union Society of the University of Fraser Valley, held its annual Advocacy Week from October 3 to 5, bringing together sixteen students’ associations that represent more than 210,000 students across British Columbia.
Representatives lobbied 38 MLAs from all parties to reiterate the need for an additional investment of $500 million, in annual operational funding, in BC’s public post-secondary institutions. This recommendation will alleviate the cost of education being downloaded onto students, particularly international students, and ensure quality programming and necessary student services can be provided.
“The financial burden on students has never been heavier; high tuition fees and the rising costs of living must be addressed to ensure education in our province is affordable and accessible to all,” said Melissa Chirino, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students. “We need today’s government to step up and reinvest in our public post-secondary education system and address the funding cuts of the past.”
In recent years, the proportion of public funding to BC colleges and universities has dropped to 41.1% of general operating revenue and tuition fees now make up more than 50% of general operating revenue. Compounding decades of public divestment is an antiquated funding formula that no longer provides sufficient financial resources for institutions to sustain meeting their primary teaching and training mission.
Students also advocated for the expansion of the Tuition Fee Limit Policy to cap international tuition fee increases at 2% annually. The province’s overreliance on international tuition fees to fund the post-secondary system developed as institution’s have come to rely on increasing international fees to make up for budget shortfalls due to a lack of government funding.
“We are here to remind our elected officials that investing in education is an investment in our future health care workers, trades people and educators” said Chirino. “At this time – when education is so integral to labour force participation – ensuring access for all British Columbians will help uplift everyone.”
Our recommendations were met favourably by both the government and opposition. We are excited to work alongside all MLAs to progress our goals of ensuring public post-secondary education in British Columbia is accessible, affordable and of the highest quality.
Learn more about our key policy recommendations:
Institutional Funding and Fees:
Our first recommendation calls on the government to complete the ongoing institutional funding review to determine gaps in government funding, particularly for rural and regional colleges and universities, as well as to provide an infusion of $500 million annually.
Tuition fees in BC have more than doubled since 2001 with the proportion of public funding to the province’s institutions dropping to 41.1%. How can we continue to call these ‘public institutions’ when the majority of funding now comes from tuitions fees?
Increased annual investments will ensure institutions across the province are adequately funded allowing the government to freeze tuition fees and development of a plan to progressively reduce tuition fees, ultimately lessening the burden on students and their families.
Another component of this recommendation includes strengthening the Tuition Fee Limit Policy, highlighting the need for the policy to prevent institutions from circumventing tuition caps through adding new ancillary fees.
Fairness for International Students:
The next recommendation student representatives discussed underscores the critical need to implement a 2% cap on annual international tuition fee increases to help regulate and ensure fee increases are fair, consistent, and predictable.
International fees have gone up by 594% since 2001. With no regulation on these fees, institutions have the ability to increase them by whatever amount they need to fill the gaps in their budget. Like domestic students, international students should be able to budget for their education and not expect their fees to increase by significant, unknown amounts at any given time.
The province additionally needs to release a new international education strategy that will provide sufficient supports for international students to aid in their cultural, social, and academic integration.
Student Financial Assistance:
Student representatives also recommended the reallocation of $75 million of tuition tax credits to the BC Access Grant – a progressive program that provides up-front, needs-based, non-repayable loans that would increase the ability of low- and middle- income British Columbians to access education.
We know that one of the biggest issues with accessing education is allowing people to get their foot in the door. We want to ensure everyone has an opportunity to get an education without having to worry about financial barriers.
Our final recommendation is the development of a province-wide apprenticeship completion strategy that includes provisions for returning apprenticeship counsellors back to campuses, in order to combat the drop in completion rates seen as a consequence of the gutting of supports for apprentices and the deregulation of skill trades in BC tied to the dissolution and replacement of the Industry Training and Apprenticeship Commission (ITAC) with the Industry Training Authority (ITA).
As a non-trades student, when you need support figuring out what courses you need to take in order to graduate, you have the ability to speak to an academic counsellor and get recommendations. So why was this option taken away for trades students?
To learn more, you can read the policy proposals published in our lobby document Fund It. Fix It: Tackling BC’s Student Affordability Crisis
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