Is Post-Secondary Education in Surrey Being Shortchanged?

KPU faculty member Geoff Dean points out a funding inequality that goes back decades

KPU Academic and Career Preparation Faculty Member and Advisor, Geoff Dean. (kpu.ca)

Recent announcements regarding an increase in funding for education from the B.C. and Surrey governments, specifically targeting certain demographics or special areas of interest for the area, have been met with praise from educators.

One of Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s longest-serving faculty members, KPU academic and career preparation instructor Geoff Dean, says that these “special projects” do not address the root issues for post-secondary education south of the Fraser.

In August, the province announced that it will restore funding for free adult basic education at universities like KPU, and last month the Surrey government announced funding for programs that provide training for advanced manufacturing in the city. While programs like these are a step in the right direction according to Dean, he argues that it’s the overall funding for full-time enrollment at south-of-Fraser universities that needs to be increased.

“If we’re going to help Surrey residents get into good jobs in advanced manufacturing, and help employers be able to have enough capable employees, the province needs to fix this long-standing unfairness in funding,” says Dean.

KPU is only funded for about half the number of full-time enrolments per resident in the university as compared to other universities in the province, according to data from the Ministry of Advanced Education. Dean claims that the university also receives significantly less funding-per-resident for academic upgrading and ESL support than other universities in B.C.

“We’ve been shortchanged in a whole lot of ways, but in terms of the long-term progress and success and economic health of this region, we’ve long been inequitably looked after,” says Dean.

He has been involved with KPU since 1985 and says that he began looking into funding numbers in those early years to see if the university was able to serve the region well.

“It was real clear after just a couple of glances that no, we don’t,” he says.

While the university has grown with the population over the years, the funding-per-resident has remained largely stagnant.

Dean says that, as the institution has grown from a college to a university-college and finally to a polytechnic university, it hasn’t received adequate funding to match its development. While the it can now provide more advanced levels of education, the funding shortfall primarily affects more basic services such as adult upgrading and first and second year programing. According to Dean, this means that KPU is struggling to serve the “real needs of the region.”

Over the years, Dean and other faculty members have been periodically emailing MLAs and city councilors and pushing for change, thus far, to no avail. They have watched various provincial governments come and go without addressing these issues. Dean says that university officials and board members have been quietly pushing for the same changes that he’s calling for, but due to KPU’s status as a public institution, they are unable to make these calls publicly.

“It’s been very strange that nothing has been done about it,” says Dean. “Nobody responds. [They say,] ‘Oh we’ve got to improve education for the province,’ but nobody’s paying any attention to Surrey, Langley, Delta.”

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