Wednesday, February 27, 2008

$200 Million B.C. 2010 Olympic Bursary Program would be a Golden Opportunity for Gordon Campbell

The new $350 million Canada Student Grant Program announced in this week's federal budget is a far cry from the $2 billion shared cost program advocated on this blog site a couple of weeks ago. It is, however, a step in the right direction. It could also be just the springboard that Premier Campbell needs in order to rectify one of the more unfortunate legacies of his first six years in office, B.C.'s high student debt (on average, $27,000 over four years). And to do one better than both the NDP and the Federal Government when it comes to funding our universities. Here is how it would work:

*$200 million dollars would be distributed to the 100,000 neediest full-time students in the province, and a fraction of that $2,000 allotment per student would also be available on a sliding scale to less needy and part-time students. This would be a tied demand-side subsidy that could be applied either to pay down Canada Student Loans or to pay tuition fees

* A maximum of $50 million dollars, or one-quarter of the amount, could be allowed to flow through to the colleges and universities in the form of higher tuition fees--up to approximately $100 per 3-unit semester course. This would have the advantage of not robbing Peter to pay Paul as historically has often been the case when tuition freezes have occurred at the expense of university revenue-raising capacity, or when tuition increases have been allowed without compensating student aid. It would also have the further advantage of being a demand-side source of revenue rather than just a grant given by government to universities. This revenue would be controlled by student consumers, thereby serving as an additional incentive for universities to be sensitive to student needs, for example by providing more popular and effective teaching. It would also prove to be a more equitable allottment in its incidence than the typical supply side grant, for the reasons cited in the previous posting. If there is a concern about the cost to non-bursary students, a fraction of the bursary could be extended on a pro-rata basis to wealthier students and/or part-time students (as mentioned above), or the higher tuition fee per course could be limited to bursary-holders.

* When combined with the $800 or $2000 per student federal grant, such a program could make a significant dent in student debt loads--and a sizeable contribution to improving access to BC's post-secondary institutions without compromising their quality.

* What better way to commemorate the 2010 Olympics and herald BC's bright future than with a direct investment in our human capital infrastructure as significant as our governments' many comparable investments in physical infrastructure ---with the BC 2010 Olympic Bursary?

1 comment:

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