At a time when students are staggering under increasingly impossible debt loads, public universities are becoming desperate for academic and infrastructure funding, and university workers are finding their jobs and workplaces being contracted out and privatized, our government, has again confirmed that they will not supply adequate funding for universities.
What We Needed
Restore the $7 billion cut from post-secondary education and training since 1993, and establish an earmarked federal transfer for PSE and training.
Establish a national system of student grants based solely on need. At the minimum, $.5 billion in the first year and $75 billion in subsequent years.1
Enact a federal Post-Secondary Education Act that will prohibit the establishment of private, for-profit educational institutions and end any current initiatives involving public private partnerships. The Act must guarantee all Canadians equal access to quality public PSE and must also create national standards.
End the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI). Stop making research funds dependent upon private sector donations and stop under-funding research councils like the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).
Defend and protect all levels of Canadian governments as they regulate in the public interest. Repeal, renegotiate agreements like the FTA, NAFTA, GATS, and the proposed FTAA.
What We Got
To help offset indirect research costs at universities and research hospitals, the government has made a one-time commitment of $200 million dollars. Previously, when funding university research, “non-direct costs” such as administration, maintenance, cleaners, space etc., were not taken into consideration.
An extension of the Education Tax Credit to students who receive taxable assistance for post-secondary education under government programs including employment insurance. The government estimates this may provide tax relief to 65,000 Canadians and cost $20 million a year.
A 7 per cent increase in both NSERC and SSHRC budgets, resulting in an increase of $36.5 million a year for NSERC and $9.5 million a year for SSHRC.
What It Means
The $200 million for indirect research costs and the estimated $20 million a year in education tax credits does not come close to the $7 billion dollars that is needed to revive and sustain quality post-secondary education in Canada. The education tax credit will be of some assistance to students enrolled in post-secondary education, but with an estimated 65,000 students having access to $20 million, the assistance may average out at around $300 per student.
Although welcome, the increases to the annual budgets of NSERC and SSHRC should be continued on an annual basis and not restricted to a one-time only increase. Stable funding allows for long-term planning and research.
With no new significant money for PSE, students and parents will continue their spiral into staggering debt loads necessary to acquire post-secondary education. Sessional instructors will continue to be used by their employers as a cheap alternative to full time faculty. Where negotiated protections do not exist, graduate teaching students will continue to see their wages eroded by rising tuition fees. Between 1990 and 2000, university tuitions fees have increased an average of 126 per cent. In 2001, the average fees for one year of an undergraduate arts program are $3,378, a huge jump from the 1990 average of $1,500.
Arts and social science courses and programs will continue to be cut, shrinking the educational choices of students and focussing more on business programs. Between 1982-83 and 2000-01, public funding of our post secondary institutions has decreased from an average of 74 per cent of operating revenue to 55 per cent of operating revenue. This budget continues the downward movement of public funding for post-secondary education.
The Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) continues its public-private partnerships, while the federal government has allowed private for-profit universities into Canada. Decades of under-funding has encouraged and continues to encourage this trend.
Jobs and wages will continue to be threatened as our members’ work is contracted out and privatized. University and college employers will continue to demand concessions and continue to chop away at our collective agreements. Private PSE institutions will continue to emerge which will further drain resources from the public system. Corporatization will expand with mega-corporations gaining more presence and influence on campuses across our country. All the while, PSE infrastructures are in need of repair. The Canadian Association of University Business Officers estimates the costs of repair to be $3.5 billion minimum, with $1 billion needed immediately.2 This can also be understood as employment stimulus money creating many jobs across Canadian university campuses. The federal government chose not to address funding that would not only update universities but also provide this badly needed economic stimulus.
The Facts Are That
People with PSE tend to have more employment opportunities, generally better salaries, and have a greater chance to be productive contributing members of our society. Education allows the disadvantaged in our society the opportunity to experience and demand equity and social justice. Our democracy is premised on simple ideas of equality, social justice, rights, and freedoms.
The Facts Are That
This budget will continue to subject students to staggeringly huge debt loads, will continue to prevent students from seeking the education they have a right to, and will continue to hamper students as they attempt to reach their potential. The anticipated debt load will reduce accessibility for working class families and their children.
1. Alternative Federal Budget, 2002, Economic and Fiscal Statement, December 6, 2001.
2. Canadian Labour Congress presentation to House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance and Social Affairs, November 1 2001.
See other CUPE Facts on the 2001 Federal Budget for more detailed information about particular sectors. They are available from the National Research Branch or at www.cupe.ca.