Are you Falcon kidding me?
// Gurpreet Kambo

The 2012-2013 budget announcement has caused Kevin Falcon, B.C.’s Minister of Finance, to receive a severe finger-wagging from the heads of post-secondary institutions throughout B.C. Falcon recently revealed that, as part of the budget, funding for all post-secondary institutions across the board would decrease by $70 million in the next three years.

“The province will work with universities, colleges, and other institutions to help ensure that front-line programs are not affected,” he said in his budget announcement. “And we believe a one per cent cost reduction is very achievable.” Falcon said he expects institutions to cut administrative costs by one per cent by 2014-2015, especially by working together in the areas of “travel, administration and executive overhead.”

However, this announcement has provoked responses from a variety of groups concerned about the reduction. Perhaps most notably, the presidents of all the province’s public postsecondary institutions have collectively written to the Minister of Advanced Education, Naomi Yamamoto, to express their displeasure with the budget announcement.

“All the college and university presidents in British Columbia were disheartened to hear the news about the upcoming budget cuts in 2013/14 and 2014/15,” says Capilano University president Kris Bulcroft. “The pending reductions in our operating budgets are in addition to five years of unfunded inflationary costs to all colleges and universities in B.C., so the cuts will impose a real strain on our budgets.”

“It is critical for Government to understand that the $70 million reduction to institutional grants over the last two years of the fiscal plan, combined with five years of unfunded inflationary pressures, creates a strain on the operations of post-secondary institutions,” the letter states. It also mentions the pressure created by the government’s “net-zero” stipulation, in that any increases in compensation for staff must be paid for by decreases in other areas. Collective bargaining typically includes an increase in compensation every few years.

The government’s statement on the cuts assures that service levels would not be affected, a claim the administrators clearly disagree with, saying that to expect the reductions would have no effect on service levels is “unrealistic”. The letter also points out that the post-secondary sector is the only one that has received an absolute budget decrease in the proposed budget, “with the inference that other sectors, such as health, have taken action [in reducing costs] where we have not.”

However, the presidents point out that their institutions can show many different expenditure management initiatives that have been implemented over the last few years.

Although the precise impact the budget cuts will have on these institutions will not be seen until next year, Bulcroft assures students that any changes will occur with as little disruption to students as possible.

“I know that students are concerned that the result of these cuts will be service cuts in the form of program reductions or eliminations, or other services that students have come to depend on in order to be successful here at Capilano. At this time, no decisions have been made about how we will deal with provincial reductions in our operating grants, and I know of no other college or university that has come forward with a statement about how they intend to deal with these reductions,” she says.

She adds that decisions about what areas will be impacted will involve a “process that brings our stakeholders (including students and the external community) into dialogue about how to work together to insure that Capilano is meeting the needs of our students, despite these difficult fiscal constraints.”

//Gurpreet Kambo, news editor
//Photograph by Jason Jeon

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com