Campbell's Pre-Election Budget Ignores Students', Workers' Needs



    Tuition fee revenue to surpass $1 billion, student aid cut when needed
    most

    VICTORIA, Feb. 17 /CNW Telbec/ - Today's provincial budget missed the
mark on ensuring British Columbians have access to higher education and
training in order to weather the economic storm. The budget provided no relief
to students and their families in the form of tuition fee reductions or
non-repayable grants. Operating funding to the province's universities and
colleges continues to fall below inflation and enrolment increases.
    "In a time of economic recession, one of the most important investments a
government can make is in higher education and training," said Shamus Reid,
Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia. "Premier
Campbell's decision to take no steps to increase the affordability and quality
of the province's post-secondary institutions will hamper the province's
economic strength and recovery."
    Revenue collected by the government in tuition fees will surpass one
billion dollars with this budget, keeping the province's fees higher than the
national average. A poll commissioned in January 2009 by BC's Coalition for
Public Education found that 70% of British Columbians list tuition fees and
related educational costs as the single biggest barrier preventing enrolment
in universities and colleges. Additionally, 86% support increased funding to
increase the quality of post-secondary education.
    "British Columbians are overwhelmingly opposed to short-changing our
universities and colleges and plunging students further into debt," said Reid.
"Yet this budget indicates Premier Campbell and his government do not care
what British Columbians think."
    A fall 2008 report found that British Columbia ranked last compared to
other provinces in terms of financial support available for students to pursue
a post-secondary education. Average student debt in the province is highest in
Canada outside the Maritimes, at $27,000. Despite projected enrolment
increases, as workers from low- and moderate- income backgrounds turn to
higher education and training programs, funding for student aid has not
increased in Budget 2009.

    The Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia is BC's provincial
student organisation, representing over 150,000 university and college
students in the province. It is the provincial affiliate of the Canadian
Federation of Students.

    
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                           BUDGET 2009 BACKGROUNDER
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    BUDGET CONSULTATION SUBMISSIONS BY STUDENTS

    Members of the Canadian Federation of Students participated in budget
consultations in nearly every community of BC in the fall. The following is a
summary of recommendations presented:

    - A reduction in tuition fees by 10 percent.
    - The establishment of an up-front provincial grants program that
      complements the new federal program to be implemented by the federal
      government in September 2009.
    - The reduction of interest rates on BC student loans to the government's
      rate of borrowing.
    - The restoration of per-student funding to 2001 levels, accounting for
      inflation, and the indexation of future funding levels to inflation.
    - An increase in funding for public transit, including allocating funding
      to establish fair-priced UPass programs with those students' unions
      currently seeking UPass agreements.

    REPORT OF THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON FINANCE AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES

    The Committee recommended that the provincial government consider:

    "43. Increasing the number of graduate scholarships, the dollar value of
    those scholarships, and the ancillary support to graduate students, all
    as part of a program of building the capacity of B.C.-based research
    institutions.

    44. Reducing interest rates charged on student loans; and extending "no-
    payment/interest-free status" for articling law students, medical
    students in residency, and students in other practicum-type programs.

    49. Working with TransLink and B.C. Transit to standardize fares through
    a U-Pass for transit services for students attending post-secondary
    institutions in those regions where a U-pass is a practical option."

    PUBLIC OPINION POLLING

    BC's Coalition for Public Education, of which the Canadian Federation of
Students-British Columbia is a member, commissioned a poll in January 2009 on
the priorities of British Columbians. The poll found that:

    - 86% agree that investment in public and post-secondary education is a
      key component of any economic stimulus plan;

    - 70% believe that the cost of education is the factor that most prevents
      British Columbians from attending a college or university; and

    - 85% support additional funding for public colleges, universities, and
      training institutes to improve the quality of post-secondary education
      in BC.

    BUDGET 2009

    - With a budgeted tuition fee increase, revenue collected from tuition
      fees will exceed $1 billion for the first time in BC's history.

    - Accounting for inflation and enrolment increases, student aid budget
      cut.

    - Operating funding to universities and colleges continues to lag behind
      inflation and enrolment increases.

                   KEY TRENDS IN POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION

    - Average annual tuition fees for       - Average student debt in BC is
      BC undergraduate students will          highest in Canada outside the
      increase for the eighth straight        Maritimes at $27,000.
      year in September to over $5,000
      per year.                             - Revenue collected from tuition
                                              fees was $454 million in 2002.
    - Average graduate tuition fees in BC
      increased by 184.4% between 2002 and  - U.S. President Barack Obama's
      2007. Average undergraduate tuition     economic stimulus package
      fees doubled.                           included over $15 billion in
                                              student grant funding.

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         INFORMATION COMPILED BY THE CANADIAN FEDERATION OF STUDENTS-
                               BRITISH COLUMBIA
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    




For further information:

For further information: or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Shamus Reid, Chairperson, (778) 722-3208 (cell); Amanda Aziz, Organiser, (778)
320-9455 (cell)


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