This Year’s B.C. Budget Draws Praise From Students and Educators

The budget will see millions in funding go towards student housing and childcare

Finance Minister Carole James announces the 2018 provincial budget Feb. 20 (Flickr/Province of British Columbia)

The government of British Columbia released its 2018 budget in February and, as far as organizations representing post-secondary education are concerned, it’s good news for B.C. students.

The Alliance of B.C. Students and the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators have both published responses to the budget praising the province’s expenditures to support students, particularly in regards to housing and childcare.

“This is an amazing win for students. This is the first time that I can remember that the government really sat down and listened to students and has given us what we’ve been asking for,” says Alliance of B.C. Students Chairperson Caitlin McCutchen.

The budget commits $21 million to making post-secondary education more accessible, adding funds to ESL support, adult basic education, support for former youth in care, and more. The budget will also see $450 million over the next three years go towards building on-campus student housing.

In a press release, the Alliance of B.C. Students called the investment “historic”, noting that the budget marks the first time that the B.C. government has directly funded student housing initiatives.

Support for on-campus housing has been a major focus of the ABCS’ lobbying efforts over the past couple of years. The organization has reached out to legislators from both the current and former provincial governments in hopes of achieving this outcome.

Encouraged by this recent headway, McCutchen, who is also the Kwantlen Student Association VP External, says that the ABCS will continue to lobby the provincial government to ensure that new student housing is made affordable and accessible for well below the market rate.

“This government definitely wants to listen to students. We’ve done lobby days with them before and they’re always very keen to hear what we have to say,” says McCutchen. “[These budget items are] something that the ABCS and the KSA have been pushing for for about a year and a half and this just proves that they have been listening to us.”

The Kwanten Student Association has also welcomed the news that support for student housing is on its way. The lack of student housing at Kwantlen Polytechnic University has been an issue since the institution was granted university status. McCutchen says that the KSA will be sitting down with the university administration to have a say in KPU’s plans to take advantage of the province’s funding towards on-campus housing.

The President of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators, George Davison, similarly praised the provincial government’s investments in education. In particular, Davison is happy to see the government’s tuition waiver for students who were formerly in foster care extended from being offered at 11 of B.C.’s institutions to all 25.

“[This budget] is a continuation of what the government has been doing since they came into power—that’s making post-secondary education more affordable for students,” says Davison.

Davison says that he has noticed a difference between the way that the NDP/Green Party provincial government addressed the issues of students and educators and how those issues were managed by the B.C. Liberals. If the spending differences were not evidence enough, Davison says that he has found this government to give far better access to educators to talk about the issues that matter to them.

“It’s a huge difference just in access. We’re now able to get our points of view across and things are getting better for students and faculty as opposed to getting worse,” says Davison.

He believes that a key focus for student issues going forward should be student debt issues and interest on student loans. He says that the provincial government has indicated to the FPSE that these issues are on the government’s radar as well, and that they are a “work in progress.” Additionally, Davison says that the fact that most institutions in B.C. still don’t have Aboriginal service plans is another issue that he wants to see addressed.

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