UFV budget not keeping pace

As your readers may recall, the communities of the Fraser Valley struggled for two years to get full university status for what was then, the University College of the Fraser Valley (UCFV).

We formed a non-profit society, the Friends of UCFV, with about 900 paid members including community leaders, business people, and students. We raised funds and proceeded to lobby the provincial government to grant UCFV full university status.

We successfully argued that this rapidly growing region seriously lacked the post-secondary opportunities as compared to other regions of B.C., and this was reflected in the relatively low numbers of post-secondary students from the central and eastern Fraser Valley who were able to access a university education – about one half of the rate as compared to the Greater Vancouver area.

In April 2008, we finally won. UCFV became UFV – the University of the Fraser Valley.

I naively believed that the fight was won and our newly designated UFV would quickly grow and provide the number of seats necessary to make up the post-secondary education deficiency, and provide our region with the same opportunities which are easily accessible in other parts of our province.

Fast forward three years, and we find that UFV has exceeded our expectations.

Unfortunately, the operating and capital funding necessary to grow the number of seats has not followed the rapidly increasing demand from our underserviced region and we find ourselves with a wait list of 5,800 students and a university struggling to cope with pressure on both their facilities and operating budgets.

The status quo has not really changed over the past three years.   Yes, our university has managed to expand their courses and to increase their numbers, educating five per cent more students than their funding, but much of this success has been achieved as a result of their fundraising and international student program, not from a meaningful increase in their provincial grant.

It’s time for the provincial government to take a hard look at the operating grants provided to the university system, particularly the institutions in underserved and rapidly growing regions like the Fraser Valley.

Coun. John G. Smith

Abbotsford City Councillor & President of the former Friends of UCFV Society