As next month’s provincial election fast approaches, faculty from two of B.C.’s biggest universities are calling on the government to increase funding for public institutions.
The call to action from the faculties of both Thompson Rivers University and Kwantlen Polytechnic University was made in response to what they say is increased use of university resources by for-profit high schools.
While those private high schools pay university management to utilize the campus, the President of TRU’s Faculty Association says it’s not such a good deal for the students.
President Tom Friedman spoke to Steele & Drex about the issue, which he says will get worse without government intervention.
Friedman says renting out the campus to those schools means that students are often barred from utilizing three classrooms, the gym and occasionally science labs.
He says the latter of those three is the most important.
“We have undergrad and grad students who must use those labs… so we have some for-profit students coming in and taking away valuable resources and facilities that our students should be using.”
Friedman thinks it’s unfair that students who pay prohibitive tuition fees should be kept from using facilities they pay for, in favour of students who don’t even go to the school.
“We want to make sure that we are a public institution, that we meet the needs of our community. And yet, here we are leasing space to these for-profit organizations and taking away potential space from our own students.”
For-profit high schools aren’t a Canada-only phenomenon, however – they’re also widely found in the United States.
What differentiates the two countries is where those schools operate.
Many private high schools in the U.S. hold their classes in other types of buildings, such as empty department stores.
Friedman says having them use TRU resources at the detriment to actual students is hurting the public’s perception of the university.
“All these private partnerships and the search for corporate donors has really eclipsed our public image as a university in our community.”
But he doesn’t blame the university itself.
“The reality is that government funding has dropped to the point where it’s covering less than half of the operating expenses of the university. So I don’t blame our administrators for looking for whatever possible revenue stream they can.”
The faculties of both TRU and KPU are using the lead-up to the May 9 provincial election to encourage increased funding for public institutions like universities.
Friedman says whichever party wins the election could win further goodwill by funding universities at the rate they need to be funded.
“We’ve seen underfunding lead to all sorts of these problems that we really don’t need. We need to focus on making sure our citizens get educated.”