What’s in the budget?
- $2 billion to support deferred maintenance and repair projects at post-secondary institutions with half the funding to be provided by the institution from private sources
- $150 million to increase funding available for the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, to provide investments in facilities and equipment for research at Canadian universities, colleges, research hospitals and not-for-profit institutions
- $600 million for future activities of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation
- $50 million for the Institute of Quantum Computing, a research institute at the University of Waterloo to support construction and the establishment of a research facility in science and technology
- $87.5 million over 3 years to federal granting councils to temporarily expand the Canada Graduate Scholarships program
- Reducing the base budgets of the 3 federal research granting councils by $87.2 million over 3 years
- $3.5 million over 2 years for 600 graduate internships in science and business through the Industrial Research and Development program
What does it mean?
Dedicating funds for deferred maintenance at Canadian universities and colleges is much needed but the amount does not begin to address the requirement particularly when institutions are required to find matching funds. A national survey by the Canadian Association of University Business Officers conducted 10 years ago estimated that the cost of deferred maintenance at that time was $3.6 billion. Updated data would show that deferred maintenance has now reached crisis proportions.
The rest of the monies announced in the budget are targeted funding for very specific science and technology research facilities or for a small component of graduate students. There is no increase in core funding for universities and colleges or for general undergraduate student financial assistance or for core research. It is estimated that federal cash transfers for post-secondary education need to be increased by $1.2 billion on top of the estimated amount in the transfer to provinces for 2008-09 of $3.2 billion to meet the level of funding that was in place in 1992-93.
What would be better choices?
The Canadian government must invest in our post secondary education system to meet the economic challenges of today and tomorrow by providing dedicated funding. Creating a post-secondary education transfer under specific federal legislation would ensure that, unlike the current system of a general cash transfer to the provinces, there would be monies dedicated specifically for colleges and universities with standards of accountability and transparency. Specific legislation would also ensure that guiding principles for post-secondary education to ensure high standards in quality and to ensure affordability for students and their families could be put in place.