Education spending at Cap focused on film building

British Columbia’s Budget and Fiscal Plan for 2010/2011-2012/2013, as prepared by the BC Ministry of Finance, was released to the public on Tuesday, March 2, 2010.

The budget claims that the government “will be moving forward with additional initiatives to enhance learning at the post-secondary level.” This is meant to be achieved by increasing medical spaces at the UBC Kelowna campus and UNBC in Prince George, as well as enhancing Emily Carr University with a Digital Media Centre at Great Northern Way campus in the Lower Mainland, and joint accreditation in Prince George with UNBC.

The provincial government budgets for $1.6 billion in three years for post-secondary spending, which will include a new Film Centre at Capilano University. Though this is a notable improvement for the school, the only institution in the province receiving over $50 million is UBC, for the Pharmaceutical Sciences and Centre for Drug Research & Development program.

Funding for post-secondary institutions (PSIs) in BC has increased by 38% since 2001/2002, but inflation steadily decreases the value of that percentage each year.

A new development in the University education system is the freedom to operate outside of the Government Reporting Entity (GRE). Currently, all publicly funded universities are consolidated with the GRE to ensure that the key areas of operation (board appointments, levels of debt, approval of capital expenditures and land transactions) are well balanced according to the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) in the best interest of the university and its students.

This new developing legislation will allow universities to be independent from the government, given that accountability will be taken for all public funds used in the key areas of interest.

“I think it’s great that each individual school can have more control over the financing because different schools with different focuses have a better idea of the needs of its students. Capilano is more arts-focused, and therefore, hopefully the arts will get attention in terms of funding,” says Sarah Davidson, a first-year student in Capilano’s Arts & Entertainment Management program.

In preparation for the 2010 budget, the provincial government has focused funding through discretionary grants (grants awarded on the basis of a competitive process, through application and formal review) in the categories of Education, Health, Social Supports, Environment/Climate Action, First Nations and Other. Post-secondary does not have its own category aside from general education, and the departments in each PSI are not individually recognized, such as Arts and Sports. There is no exemplary contingency allowance available for post-secondary Education, Arts or Sports, though there is a large portion for the Vancouver Olympics, First Nations and Gaming costs.

Regarding the affect of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) on the post-secondary education system, the BC Budget 2010 states: “...the introduction of the HST will create incremental costs for PSI’s (Post Secondary Institutions). Therefore, rebates will also be available for eligible universities and public colleges to ensure that, on average, they will pay no additional tax due to harmonization.” It is also added that “eligible institutions” will continue to qualify for rebates on both the five percent federal and seven percent provincial portions of the HST. There are no indications, however, which universities are “eligible,” nor what the criteria for this status are.

In comparison to the aforementioned spending on education, $2.7 billion is projected over three years for transit infrastructure throughout the province, with $60 million alone dedicated to the Canada Line rapid transit system. Part of the transportation budget is the expansion of the Lower Mainland bus fleet, as well as replacement/expansion of the Capilano River Bridge. These upgrades should have a positive effect on Capilano’s commuter population.

Provincial post-secondary education debt for 2009-2010 is at $3.8 million, and is forecasted to rise over the three-year plan, up to a $4.3 million deficit by 2012-2013.

// Meagan Bibby

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