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TRU grossly underfunded by province, profs say

Shortfall blamed for continued tension between faculty, administration
By Mike Youds
May 5, 2016 4:00 A.M.

TRU is severely underfunded among B.C. research universities and that’s a root cause of ongoing issues between faculty and administration in the opinion of a pair of professors who crunched the data.

The funding disparity between TRU and other research universities in B.C. is striking in an analysis prepared by economist Peter Tsigaris and biologist Cynthia Ross Friedman.

All other research universities in the province, including UNBC in Prince George and UBC Okanagan in Kelowna, are well above TRU in per-student (FTE — full-time equivalent) funding. 

In 2014-2015, UNBC received $13,517 per FTE student while TRU got $7,959. UBC-Okanagan received about $1,000 more per student than its Kamloops counterpart.

In 2015-2016, funding levels were cut across the board, but the 2.16 percent drop at TRU was proportionately greater.

Tsigaris said that the funding situation amounts to TRU being treated as a second-class citizen.

“There is a complete imbalance here and I don’t understand why,” he said.

Underfunding is the root cause of continuing friction between faculty and administration, Tsigaris and Friedman argue in their four-page paper on the subject. If funding were equal to that of other institutions, TRU would receive an additional $8 million annually, representing a significant economic injection for Kamloops. If TRU were to receive average FTE funding, it would receive an additional $2,750 per FTE student, amounting to $22 million more a year in operating funds.

That amount of underfunding affects the Kamloops and Williams Lake regions, Tsigaris notes, contrasting it with the electrical subsidy offered to KGHM-Ajax if it’s approved. Economic benefits from equitable education funding would be far greater, the professors state.

“TRU is the gold mine of this community and it is time something is done to repair this unfair and inefficient treatment of an important institution in the Interior of British Columbia.”

While inclusion in governance and decision-making has been a chief complaint for the TRU Faculty Association, there is a direct relationship with underfunding, he added.

“There is an interplay,” he said. “Governance is part of the issue, too, but we think those things can be resolved when there’s not pressure to produce more with a lot less. The biggest problem is underfunding. Resolve that and everything else would fall into place.”

What makes the disparity even more perplexing is that five years ago TRU became a member of the Research Universities’ Council of B.C., a designation that recognizes the need to provide additional funds for research.

There is more at stake in the equation that just TRU and Kamloops, the pair notes. They point out that the provincial government share of funding for post-secondary education has been steadily dropping for the past 10 years. Tuition now makes up half of revenue when it once represented one-third of revenue.

“As universities increasingly seek revenue sources from industry, from private donors and, of course, from increasing student tuition–particularly from international students–the "public" nature of our universities becomes more and more eroded,” the paper contends.

Christopher Seguin, TRU vice-president advancement, said he agrees with the analysis. The funding matrix used by the Ministery of Advanced Education is a dozen years old and hasn't kept up with the evolution of the university. The addition of masters programs is but one example. The issue is not exclusive to TRU, he said.

"Our student population has grown substantially and funding hasn't kept up."

He said they are working with the ministry and various stakeholders on an ongoing basis to address the funding. inconsistencies with the hope of catching up in the near future.


Annual Operating Grants per funded FTE for 2014-15, Research Council Universities.


Cynthia Ross Friedman says:
May 8, 2016 08:36am

The report was not really about Ajax, but OK - I will bite.

I am confident that the majority of all folks working at TRU are opposed. I would say 75%. I have surveyed and talked (and argued) with enough people to be confident in making that statement. But that still leaves about 25% support; not only is that a large number, but one that also includes the decision-makers (which should include more faculty, but that is yet another issue). So yeah....I agree, Student: those at TRU with "the power" I believe want the mine, or at least want to pretend they do. That is where I take issue: just be transparent. To thine own self be true. There will be some in support. How much? Why not find out instead of being so fearful?

(And next time I will discuss why the notion that resource extraction is needed to fuel government is erroneous).


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ajax toobigtooclose says:
May 5, 2016 11:25am

Well done Dr. Tsigaris and Dr. Friedman. The statistics you report show that TRU is being underfunded relative to other universities in the province.

TRU employs about 1200 people. It is the 4th largest employer in Kamloops. It employs far more people than the proposed mine would employ. TRU attracts foreign students from around the world. TRU contributes in many ways to the City of Kamloops.

Instead of giving a large hydro electricity subsidy to the proposed mine, the BC government could contribute a relatively small amount to a sustainable local economy and sustainable employment, in an environmentally friendly, by providing adequate funding to TRU.


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Stewart Duncan says:
May 5, 2016 08:38am

Yes, "universities increasingly seek revenue sources from industry" as the article says.
So where does TRU stand regarding Ajax mine? Opposed, of course. But hey! Keep those donations coming!
On another note, if TRU did get more funding from the province, would that mean hiring more teachers to handle classes that are too large? Would it mean increased wages for teachers? Or would the money go to administrative bonuses and new projects?


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TRU student says:
May 7, 2016 02:07am

No, Stewart, TRU is not opposed to the Ajax Project. By agreeing to receiving funding if the proposed mine comes to realization, its interest is in having the project go to the next stage.
Look at actions, not words.
What some individuals affiliated with TRU may say does not reflect on a position of a university as a whole.


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