February 18, 2000 Volume 7, Number 11


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U of S urges province to reinvest in higher ed.

The U of S has used the provincial government’s current review of the affordability and accessibility of post-secondary education to make a strong plea for a reversal of what it calls the government’s "disinvestment in higher education".

In a nine-page brief to Education Minister Jim Melenchuk and Post-Secondary Education Minister Glenn Hagel, the University argues the province must reinvest in high-quality faculty, improved facilities and equipment, and support for graduate students.

It also puts forward positions on the student finance questions that were the focus at the 15 public hearings that Hagel and Melenchuk held across Saskatchewan in January, as they gathered public input on issues like student loans, debt-load, and tax breaks.

The U of S brief, issued in late-January, suggests part of the access question is the quality of the program that students will be paying tuition to attend.

And they key to program quality "is a highly qualified, highly accomplished faculty," the U of S paper states. "A strong faculty generates the research monies to build facilities, attracts the best students and challenges the administration to reach for excellence."

The U of S states that from 1989-99, it lost 103 full-time equivalent faculty. Today, "we are serving as many students as we did 10 years ago, with 10 per cent fewer faculty ... We have compromised our quality..."

The brief states many colleges and departments lack the capacity to respond to student demand. "Every place is filled in every college. The College of Commerce maintains an acceptance average of 82 per cent and turns away 500-600 applicants every year."

"There is no question that the quality of instruction has suffered as class size has increased," it states.

The brief goes on to say the U of S lacks space and equipment. Even with the current building projects, "there will still be no building for the College of Nursing, no stage with adequate proscenium space for the Department of Music, and no way to accommodate the demands for health science research space ... There is a significant shortage of computers for student use, and the facilities in departments like Music are inferior to those found in many high schools."

The brief notes the federal government has significantly cut support for higher education, and also notes that Saskatchewan has cut operating grants for universities by 5.4 per cent between 1982-99.

The brief urges the province "to provide a $1,000 entrance scholarship for all students who graduate from high school with an average of 80 per cent or higher." At the U of S this would cost $2.25 million. It argues universities here must compete with increasingly rich scholarships offered elsewhere to top students.

The government should also emulate Manitoba and Ontario and provide matching support for bursary monies that the University raises itself.

The U of S says it’s also important to provide financial support to graduate students, because of their key role in a research university like the U of S.

The U of S also supports proposals to increase tax credit and interest relief programs for indebted students.

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