Unfair Funding for St Thomas Students
Today I asked questions about the unfair funding for St Thomas students.
M. Coon : Le 25 janvier dernier, le gouvernement a signé un protocole d’entente avec seulement
trois des quatre universités publiques de la province. St. Thomas University est encore injustement traitée. En effet, la population étudiante de cette université reçoit beaucoup moins de soutien financier de la subvention de fonctionnement provinciale que celle des autres universités. Cette injustice a été signalée en 2007 quand la Commission sur l’éducation postsecondaire au Nouveau-Brunswick a remarqué que St. Thomas University subissait « de toute évidence les conséquences d’une anomalie au niveau du financement qu’il fallait corriger ». Comment le gouvernement peut-il penser un seul instant que la population étudiante de St. Thomas University vaut moins que celle des autres universités?
L’hon. M. Melanson : Je remercie le député d’en face de sa question. S’il y a une chose qui est
claire de ce côté-ci de la Chambre, c’est que nous attachons une grande importance aux programmes offerts par nos quatre universités publiques au Nouveau-Brunswick, et cela inclut St. Thomas University.
Nous sommes en discussion continue avec St. Thomas University et nous voulons certainement arriver à une entente. Nous voulons que St. Thomas University puisse signer un protocole d’entente faisant en sorte que nous verrons un financement stable pour cette université. Il faut aussi garder à l’esprit que, historiquement, les gouvernements antérieurs ont réglé certaines situations de sous-financement à St. Thomas University. Cette dernière est allée chercher, historiquement parlant, 1,2 million de dollars additionnels pour corriger la situation. Nous allons continuer à travailler avec St. Thomas University, et je souhaite que nous puissions signer un protocole d’entente.
Mr. Coon: St. Thomas University receives significantly less funding than Mount Allison University, a comparable university. Consider that 73% of STU students are from New Brunswick compared to only 37% at Mount Allison. Despite this, Mount Allison receives $9 388 per student compared to the $7 263 per student at STU. In other words, Mount Allison receives $2 125 more per student. That is a 25% difference. That is more than STU students are getting, yet 63% of Mount Allison students are from outside the province. How can the minister possibly justify that New Brunswick taxpayers provide more support for students from other provinces than they do for New Brunswick students at STU?
Hon. Mr. Melanson: The funding formula for universities is very complex. But certainly, when
this flat funding formula was put in place many years ago, it took into account the types of programs and courses offered. The funding is weighted based on the different programs that are offered. I think that it is probably too complicated to be able to explain the formula here in a minute, but I do want to insist that we are in continual discussions with St. Thomas. I met with the president a few weeks ago, and there is ongoing conversation. We want to resolve this issue. We want to see stable funding for our publicly funded universities and predictable tuition for the students, and we want to make sure that our students who go to postsecondary education have the highest quality of education so that they are ready for the labour force when they get into it.
Mr. Coon: This is about equity and fairness. STU’s board of governors has made it clear that it
cannot sign a new agreement with the province unless it makes progress in correcting this longstanding injustice that was recognized over 11 years ago. The Premier has said time and time again that education is a priority for his government. This is a chance for him to back up his words with actions and fix this long-standing problem. Students have done their part by paying more tuition. STU has done its part by keeping its costs as low as possible. Now, it is time for the government to do its part. Will the minister finally correct this funding inequity and treat these students as fairly as the rest of the students in this province?
Hon. Mr. Melanson: I think that all universities have done their part to be cost efficient. St.
Thomas University has certainly done some hard work also. I want to say it again. Over the years, St. Thomas University has received an incremental $1.2 million to address some of the challenges that it had. It was able to increase tuition by 28% over the past few years compared to the other universities that were at 8%. It has been in a position to better the services at the university. However, we will not negotiate or discuss this with St. Thomas University on the floor of the Legislature. We want to discuss it with the university administration. We are discussing it with the university administration, and we are doing everything that we can to resolve this issue. With the MOUs that have been signed by others, they are all getting incremental money and they are certainly getting stable funding. We can do this with St. Thomas University. Let’s get to the table again.
Mr. Speaker: Time.