Leader columnist Frank Bucholtz wrote in his Oct. 2 column that, “There has been a long series of tragic incidents in this city. At some point in time, we as a community need to ask ourselves why.”
He went on to say, “Surrey is filled with mostly peaceable people who have come here from all over the world… Most Surrey residents want better lives for their families and work hard to try and make that happen.”
One of the ways that people try to make those better lives happen is by getting a good education. But, along with the inadequate levels of policing, Surrey’s also been shortchanged in other significant areas – in transit, health care facilities, school district programs and college and university programs.
In particular, the healthy growth of our city has been held back by the continual shortchanging of our regional university, Kwantlen Polytechnic. KPU has never been able to provide the level of access to further education that B.C.’s other regional colleges and universities have been able to.
It has never received much more than half the funding, per resident in our region, that the other college regions get.
Although 21 per cent of B.C.’s population lives in Kwantlen’s region, KPU gets only 11 percent of the funding. If KPU were funded at equitable levels, it would have room for 7,000 more students – more of our residents would have good jobs and our region’s employers wouldn’t have to search elsewhere for qualified employees.
A related problem is the inadequate amount of upper-level English language training (ELT) offered in our region. Over 300,000 immigrants live in our south Fraser region – including 30 per cent of B.C.’s recent immigrants – and for almost all recent immigrants, English is not their mother tongue.
Up until 2013, KPU was only getting one-quarter of the funding for ELT that the rest of B.C. got, relative to the number of people who needed it. Then the provincial government, in violation of its own University Act regulations, eliminated all funding for ELT programs at Kwantlen and B.C.’s other colleges and universities.
Now KPU can only offer English language training for residents if it’s paid for by profits from international students’ tuition – and that’s not nearly enough to offer even the limited amount of ELT that KPU offered before these absurd cuts.
So it’s up to all of us to press the provincial government to correct this long-standing inequity in post-secondary funding in Surrey.
I hope the candidates in the upcoming civic election will tell us what they plan to do to make sure the provincial government lives up to its “Skills for Jobs” rhetoric and ensures that people in Surrey have as much access to the higher education and training that they need as people elsewhere in B.C.