B.C. universities and colleges are trimming operating costs after a last-minute reduction in their expected government funding caught them in a lurch.
The heads of B.C. post-secondary institutions were informed on March 12 — just 18 days before the start of the fiscal year — that the amount provided would be about 2.6 per cent, or $50 million, less than anticipated.
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Minister of Advanced Education Murray Coell, however, said post-secondary operating budgets increased $68 million over 2007.
“The funding did go up,” said Robert Clift, executive director of the Confederation of University Faculty Association of B.C. “But we all did our plans based on having $50 million more in the system ... we’ve had the rug pulled out from under us.”
At press time yesterday, the board of directors of Vancouver Community College was debating cutting about 80 staff positions and cancelling some programs, potentially impacting as many as 1,000 students.
A day earlier, Simon Fraser University approved a “lean” budget with a 1.9 per cent across-the-board reduction and less money for bursaries and scholarships, as well as a hiring freeze on 50 staff positions and the elimination of a 34-year-old program that offered free tuition for seniors taking degree-credit courses.