March 6, 2017
An Open Letter to the Honorable Andrew Wilkinson, Minister of Advanced Education
Dear Minister Wilkinson,
If the BC government were a student, it would earn a failing grade for the analysis you offered to Global News on February 20 regarding post-secondary education in BC.1 As educators, we would like to offer the BC government some constructive feedback to improve the quality and accuracy of its statements to the public.
1. Misleading use of statistics
You are correct that in nominal terms, there has been a 32 per cent increase in funding to Langara College between 2001 and 2016. However, on its own that figure is misleading. The BC government should know better than to ignore two very basic factors:
- Inflation. Ignoring inflation is like saying $100 could buy the same amount of groceries in 2001 as it did in 2016 – something that is obviously not true. In real terms there has been more than 20 per cent inflation since 2001, which significantly erodes the 32 per cent “increase” claimed by the BC government.
- Student numbers. From 2001 to 2017, the number of domestic students enrolled at Langara has increased by almost 20% (growing from 5,487 in 2000/2001 to 6,675 in 2017). In plain terms, Langara has had to stretch the funding it receives from the BC government to cover a larger number of students.
Once both inflation and student numbers are taken into account, BC government per student funding at Langara College has actually decreased by 20 per cent since your government took office.
This significant decline in funding has had a real and deleterious impact on students, their families and the province’s future, which is why we are calling for funding to be restored.
2. Impact of shrinking government contributions AND tuition freezes
You make an excellent point when you say that the BC government has put a “hard limit on annual tuition increases of two per cent for the past 12 years.” This policy may be meant to help students, but it has strained the resources of the colleges and universities they attend. That is having an impact on the quality and accessibility of public higher education in BC.
What’s the problem? This tuition policy limits revenue for colleges and universities, at a time when they are required by law to balance their budgets and while funding grants from the BC government continue to shrink on a per-student basis. As a result, colleges and universities scramble to raise money elsewhere.
How does this play out at Langara? Like other colleges and universities, Langara must increasingly recruit and rely on fees from international students (who pay up to six times more than domestic students). The BC government grant now covers only one third of Langara’s operating budget, a significant decrease since 2001.
Not only is this a risky way to fund public post-secondary, it amounts to an inadvertent (or an intended?) privatization of public education. The “public” in public higher education is rapidly becoming more fiction than fact.
3. Ongoing erosion of the BC post-secondary education system
You say that students tell you that they are “impressed with the quality of their education and feel that they are getting great value for their investment.” While we are happy to hear that our hard work as educators is paying off, it is clear to us that the continued reduction in government funding to public post-secondary institutions will eventually and inevitably erode student satisfaction.
The BC government has failed to recognize the true nature of the crisis on campuses across British Columbia. The recent budget your government tabled fails to invest in the education of British Columbians, a critical part of the province’s economy and BC citizens' quality of life.
Langara Faculty Association Urges Funding be Restored
Recently the Langara Faculty Association launched a series of ads on buses and in SkyTrain stations, asking whichever party forms the next government to restore funding. Perhaps you have seen them around town?
At our campaign launch we asked students and faculty to explain why they would like to see the funding to BC colleges and universities restored. We would like to meet with you to give you the many messages we received; they include many strong arguments that could serve as excellent quotes for your next media interview. Here is a photo of them displayed at the College.
Please let us know when you can meet with the Langara Faculty Association so that we can share our concerns with you.
The Langara Faculty Association
Lynn Carter, President Langara Faculty Association
1. Yuliya Talmazan. Langara Faculty Association calls for more student funding ahead of provincial election. Global News, Feb 20, 2017, https://is.gd/royiju.