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The Campbell government is taking the low road to higher education by enacting legislation to establish a private university in the province.

The Sea to Sky University Act, introduced yesterday in the legislature, reflects the Campbell governments new era university admissions policy where only wealthy students need apply, says CUPE BC president Barry ONeill.

This act isnt about making post-secondary education more accessible, says ONeill. Quite the contrary. Its about restricting access to those with the ability to pay, instead of those with a desire to learn.

ONeill says British Columbia used to have one of the most accessible post-secondary education systems in the country, second only to Quebec. But in the space of one long year, the Campbell Liberals have lifted the lid on tuition fees and placed post-secondary education beyond the grasp of many more British Columbians.

ONeill predicts the establishment of private universities will cause tuition fees to go up, access to go down, and accountability to go out the window.

He also warns a private university will divert scarce government funds and resources away from public, post-secondary institutions. In the United States, private, post-secondary schools get 30% of their income from direct and indirect government subsidies.

The union, which represents 5,000 university workers in BC, says it will be difficult to rid the province of private universities if the bill is passed. Once private universities get a toe-hold here, NAFTA regulations would prevent the province from keeping foreign, private-for-profit universities out, ONeill says.

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Beth Smillie, 604-291-1940, extension 223