Opinion

Muskens: Post-secondary education skills key to new jobs

Just this past week, the Research Universities Council of British Columbia (RUBC) released its submission to the provincial government on the goals and direction they think the government should pursue in providing funding for post-secondary education.

The Research Council consists of the six research universities—UBC, SFU, UVic, UNBC, Royal Roads and Thompson Rivers University.

As a group their mandate is to identify higher education issues and lobby government.

Their latest report which is titled Opportunity Agenda for British Columbia, identified a plan for the future of post-secondary education based on three pillars.

The first of these pillars is that there should be a space for every qualified student in B.C. In other words the government should fund colleges and universities so every qualified applicant is offered a seat. No students would be turned away because a program or class is full.

According to the report we can’t afford to turn students away because our labour market demands an educated work force. According to B.C. labour market projections 78 per cent of jobs will require some form of post-secondary education.

With that in mind, the council is proposing that the government fund 11,000 new student seats over the next four years.

This means the council is asking the government to commit $130 million so colleges and universities can add more classes and offer more programming.

They are requesting funding for 3,600 seats for degree programs, 3,000 seats for graduate programs and 4,400 seats for colleges and trades.

The second pillar is a guarantee for students in need. This pillar looks at the current B.C. student aid program and suggests a number of improvements.

Compared to some provinces, such as Alberta and Ontario, B.C. doesn’t have a grant system. Students apply for a student loan and if they graduate they then can apply for a loan reduction.

This type of loan system with no up-front grants may lead some students to study outside of the province or in some cases not go to college or university at all.

The council is proposing a grant program where students will receive grant funding on a yearly basis, a loan reduction program that is significantly more generous than the current program, and the establishment of an Opportunity and Innovation Graduate Student Scholarship which would provide approximately $15,000 to graduate students.

The final pillar is a commitment to innovation and jobs. This is where the council is looking for government support to fund research across its sector.

They are asking the government to bring together some initiatives to provide them with funding they can count on for research and innovation.

They are also asking the government to provide more money to the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund.

This government fund provides support in helping universities build or improve their long-term ability to engage in leading-edge research. Its goal is to fund projects that provide both economic and social benefits to the province.

All of these pillars are lofty goals, and should not be discounted.

The only thing we know right now is that all colleges and universities in the province are facing funding cuts—the current year’s provincial budget included reference to pending funding cuts in the 2013-14 fiscal year for the post-secondary sector.

 

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