Ashley Fehr: Gordon Campbell government's cuts devastate postsecondary students

By Ashley Fehr

Are you a student in financial need? Do you live in British Columbia?

Don’t even think about asking the B.C. government for help.

At a time when the Alberta government is choosing to increase postsecondary-education funding by $88 million, the Saskatchewan government has announced $25 million in new student aid and knowledge infrastructure funding, and Newfoundland and Labrador has eliminated interest on student loans, the B.C. government chose to slash $16 million from education.

The cuts were quite specific: the province chose to eliminate $16 million in funding for StudentAid B.C. With no announcement, no press release. We had to find out when the news was leaked to the media.

Even worse, many students found out the hard way. When they phoned StudentAid B.C. asking where their grant was, they were advised it no longer existed. We’ve read numerous media articles about these cuts, but no one has really explained why.

Now, pressed on the matter, Minister of Advanced Education Moira Stilwell says it’s because of tough economic times. I get it; I really do. In a tough economy we have to cut funding where we can. But why is it that everyone else realizes that cutting accessibility to education is the last place to look for fiscal savings? And cutting funding for health-care access? I think you’d have to look far and wide to find supporters for such cuts.

Here’s the way it is, plain and simple. We live within an aging population—this is not news. The need for nurses, residential-care workers, and home-support workers is on the rise. These positions aren’t particularly well paid, and many students are unable to afford the education required without taking out student loans.

While first applying for student loans, one may have learned about the Health Care Bursary and the Nurses Education Bursary, two programs that help those going into nursing or the health-care field get a head start and require fewer loans. These bursaries worked to ensure a much-needed influx of new workers in the health-care system in B.C., in part by making sure the necessary education was accessible.

In addition, when many of these students began their programs, they were told that when they graduate they could apply for a Loan Reduction for Residential Care Aide and Home Support Worker Programs. But sadly, without any warning, if they graduated on or after April 1, 2009, this is no longer true.

“Wait. April 1?” you say. “But I only heard about the cuts at the end of July.”

So, here we sit in quite the predicament. We’re stressed. We’re angry. We’re fighting back tears. But it’s too late; we’ve already taken the student loans. We’ve already completed the program and the government—the same government that promised not to cut education or health care—has told us we’re not getting our loan reductions because the program has been eliminated. At this point, all that we can do is warn future graduates about the cuts to the loan-reduction programs. Oh and don’t forget, the government has also decided that it’s not worth its while to fund health care at the front end. The bursaries have also been cut.

Gordon Campbell’s government has been downright awful for education. In 2008, it made-last minute cuts to postsecondary institutions, after most schools had spent their funds.

This year, the Liberals have broken their promise, and the government has eliminated five important student-aid programs: the Permanent Disability Benefits Program, Debt Reduction in Repayment Program, Loan Reduction for Residential Care Aide and Home Support Worker Programs, Nurses Education Bursary, Health Care Bursary, and Premier’s Excellence Award program. And we hear the province is still considering cutting other programs and bursaries.

The B.C. government is not only eliminating loan programs; it’s eliminating real students and devastating the future of the province and its youth.

Ashley Fehr is the chair and director of academic affairs for the Kwantlen Student Association.



Desmond Rodenbour

Aug 11, 2009 at 5:06pm

At a time when President Barak Obama has increased US student aid at a historic rate - jumping up 32% federally since 2008 - it's simply astounding to hear that British Columbia's response to these tough economic times is to cut funding to student aid.

Currently, Canada can pride itself as having a more educated workforce than our neighbours to the south - but for how much longer? And what will the long-term economic consequences be when we are relegated to simply consuming the intellectual ideas from the US, without being in a position to create our own?

Grim indeed, I suppose. But, on the up side, we likely won't be bright enough to notice.


Aug 12, 2009 at 7:57am

No surprising, as the neo-liberals have cut revenues so much they don't have money left for education.

Campbell needs to reverse course and start raising taxes.


Aug 12, 2009 at 10:45am

And by neo-liberals I hope you mean neo-conservatives, as the BC Liberals really aren't liberals at all.


Aug 12, 2009 at 4:38pm

MD, if by Liberal you mean Socialist, then no, they are not Liberals. If by Liberal you mean free-market first, then yes, they are Liberals.


Aug 14, 2009 at 11:46am

they are Socreds. What rock have you been living under asp?


Aug 25, 2009 at 10:18pm

You wouldn't be complaining if you were paid. Our society is built of capitalism GET USED TO IT.

Sorry -B

Oct 30, 2009 at 9:17am

Canada much like all western liberal democracies are socialist countries, founded on capitalist, the differences are simply intensity of socialism. I unfortunately think, that students are in for a rough ride in the near future. How many students realize that we are subsidzed by the government up to 80% (excluding International students), yes...yes even you B...but do not get use to it. As this babyboom gets to retirement age ,2011- 2031, we will see far more retired peoples and much less younger people (low fertility rate) to pay for education and other programs for the welfare state. At our current level, people will have to make some hard choices, regardless of what political party is in...perhaps we could open the gates and allow significantly more immigrants in...alot...or maybe work with the USA and Mexico, and create the North America we have the population base to maintain the social welfare state...seems ironic, though that as our governments negotiate free trade agreements , thus transferring out manufactoring base to countries with minimal enviromental and labour laws, and thery remind us that we are needing to get educated for the new economy, that they should cut funding to post secondary education across this country. Students and their families should be demanding full educational cost to be covered as it is the highly trained student-worker, who will have to generate the income to get us through the next crisis...this is simply logical...but it does not seem of a big concern to most yet, your eyes and look at the patterns...!

voting public

Oct 31, 2009 at 12:48pm

i know the numbers are really low for voter turnout at municipal, provincial, and federal elections, I also know that those who do vote, do not vote in an a ideological consistent manner at each level. This is a reflection of the large degree of ignorance by the voting piblic and as a result we have these silly label debates. Students today simply go through the motions, get loans, or mummy/daddy pay for it, get a "career", and dream of mass consumption, so eventually they will be malnutritioned and unhappy, likely divorced...and can just not figure out why they are not happy. Unfortunately, it is a privilege today to get a university degree, and what is really sad is to see how the majority of students simply go through the motions and miss out on what an education does for you. If you engage in university it begins to open your mind the wide diversity of perspectives and enables one to ground themselve in a philosophy, in which you assess issues, you may even alter your foundation as you learn more...if your really gifted, you realize that the more you learn...the more you know , the less you know. So if you want to talk ideology (political) do yourself a favour and learn about how you and those around you are inconsistent in your voting patterns, if in fact you vote. If every student made this an issue to their political representatives, perhaps you would see positive change, of course that would require you to get off facebook or your iphone for actually communicate your ideas to these PUBLIC OFFICIALS...youth is wasted on the youth...they are too busy acting like sheeps meanwhile their shepards are guiding them to the slaughter house.