STU doesn't have same funding needs as other schools, minister argues

During the panel, cabinet minister Roger Melanson argued that with a school like St. Thomas, which offers primarily liberal arts courses, there isn't the same need for increased funding each year to upgrade equipment and learning materials.

Provincial funding for universities the topic of this week's Political Panel

This week's political panel was focused on the funding relationship between the New Brunswick government and the province's universities. (Natalie Sturgeon/CBC )

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Post-Secondary Education Minister Roger Melanson says the provincial government is working hard to reach a funding deal with St. Thomas University, but said that it has to stay within the existing weighted funding formula.

The comments were made during this week's Political Panel, which was focused on the funding relationship between the New Brunswick government and the province's universities.  

In January, three of the province's four publicly funded universities signed a new funding agreement with the Gallant government.

St. Thomas University was the odd school out, refusing to sign the agreement because it said it would leave it underfunded.

Weighted funding formula 

Melanson explained that under the current formula, part of the amount of funding universities receive is calculated based on what the university offers.

He argued that a school like St. Thomas, which offers primarily liberal arts courses, doesn't have the same need for increased funding each year to upgrade equipment and learning materials.

"There's no incremental costs," he said.

He also said that as enrolment at New Brunswick universities decreases, as it has in recent years, there needs to be a balance between infrastructure upgrades and providing a quality education to students, and making sure the institutions are operated efficiently.

Scott Smith, the Progressive Conservative candidate for the Fredericton South riding in the upcoming election, argued that the Liberal government has had a hard time "realizing that taxpayers dollars are finite."

"They are spending this money like there is no limit to it, and there certainly is," he said.

He also asked Melanson if the Liberal government felt St. Thomas University students were "worth less" than students at other universities.

Melanson replied that the government is working very hard to get a funding agreement in place.

Green Party Leader David Coon with NDP Leader Jennifer McKenzie. (Natalie Sturgeon/CBC )

Green Party Leader David Coon said that there have been questions about whether St. Thomas University is adequately funded compared to other New Brunswick universities for some time.

NDP leader Jennifer McKenzie said her party feels that funding universities adequately is a key part of keeping youth in the province.

People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin said he would like to see a targeted funding approach, where the provincial government ties funding to universities and colleges to what jobs and training are needed in the private sector.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story indicated Scott Smith was a Progressive Conservative MLA. Smith is the PC Party's candidate in the upcoming provincial election for the riding of Fredericton South.
    Mar 23, 2018 7:28 AM AT