More than 30 years after Geoff Dean released a study that showed Kwantlen College was getting far less funding than other regional colleges, the math and science instructor has carried out a follow-up study on Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU).
It found the situation has not improved and in fact may be even worse, Dean disclosed.
“We were getting half what everyone else was getting, and that pattern hasn’t changed,” Dean told the Black Press Media.
His assessment is based on the amount per resident the provincial government gives KPU in the area it serves, compared to the per-resident funding for other regional colleges and universities.
Kwantlen has 20,000 students and 1,400 faculty members located at five locations in Langley, Surrey (at Newton Town Centre, Cloverdale, and City Centre) and Richmond.
Based on 2018 figures, the Dean study found that Kwantlen gets slightly more than $62 per resident from the province in the region it serves, while the other institutions get close to $149 per resident, on average.
That, according to Dean, means KPU is only funded to offer half the number of full-time-equivalent student seats relative to the rest of B.C.’s regional post-secondaries.
“Kwantlen gets the least,” Dean summed up.
“We’re being totally badly treated by the provincial government,” he added.
“It’s been that way no matter what the government is. None of these [political] parties have done anything.”
Dean believes the recent controversy over KPU budget-tightening that froze new admissions at the KPU school of music in Langley, along with the outright elimination of other courses like the farrier program, are the direct result of the funding inequity described in his report.
“Our adult education is getting a quarter of what we ought to, trades, are getting a third,” Dean related.
According to his study, Kwantlen only gets a fifth the funding for English language training that the rest of BC gets.
It looks even worse if the larger universities are factored in, Dean told the provincial select standing committee on finance and government services.
During his June 21 presentation, in response to a question by MLA Rich Coleman, Dean said that if the big three B.C. universities that draw students province-wide, UBC , SFU and UVic, are included in the calculations, KPU looks even more underfunded, receiving roughly a third of the average funding given the big three and regional universities.
Dean carried out his first study in 1985 after a meeting with then-MLA Rita Johnson about funding issues at the college.
He submitted his findings to the provincial government, with no response.
Since then, KPU has become a university, offering longer programs that cost more to administer, which Dean argues has made a bad situation even worse.
Dean believes the current KPU administration knows there is a problem, but has to tread lightly when lobbying the provincial government to fix the imbalance.
“I kind of think they have [pushed for funding], but they have to do it behind closed doors,” Dean commented.
Dean sent his updated report to the current provincial government.
In response, he received a letter from Trudy Rotgans, the executive director of the Post-Secondary Programs Branch who stated the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training has “launched a number of system-wide initiatives to support students who may face challenges accessing post-secondary education, initiatives that benefit students at KPU.”
Rotgansmentioned $24 million in funding that will provide tuition-free adult basic education, and english language learning.
In response to a request for comment, KPU released a statement by Dr. Alan Davis, KPU president and vice-chancellor, who stated the university is “grateful to the provincial government for the funding it receives,” and added KPU “would welcome opportunities to provide more seats south of the Fraser for students wanting to pursue high quality post-secondary education.”
Dean is not sure why Kwantlen gets so much less, but suggested it may be part of a general trend south of the Fraser, where residents get less funding per capita for transit, police and hospital beds as well.
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