Against money for UBCO

Post-secondary education is big business, and business has been booming for several years.

Now, with the downturn in world economies, we are seeing wealthy parents of overseas students being a bit more careful with their money. It is hardly surprising they would balk at paying $48,000 in tuition fees. Throw in money for living expenses and you're probably looking at $75,000 to send their little darling to Canada for an education.

It’s small wonder then that UBC Okanagan was unable to hit their “sales” target. What is interesting here is student levels were already down for the last financial year and enrolment for the coming year is down 8%. That was before the federal government decided to step in and cap the number of overseas students allowed into the country.

Strangely, our provincial government seems to be in denial of reality, with our premier, David Eby, saying public institutions will be able to maintain their current allocation of foreign students. That may be so, but it doesn't mean the allocation will be filled as that is beyond his control. It is the parents of foreign students who will decide how many come here. Despite that, Eby has seen fit to give the university $18 million of taxpayers' money.

As I stated, post secondary education is big business. Sometimes it makes a profit, and sometimes it doesn’t, just like any other business. I would be OK with a loan of $18 million, but why does one business deserve a grant when there are many businesses around the province that have hard times but get no government help at all?

In my opinion, this sends a very bad message to our post-secondary education providers. It suggests they don't need to be financially responsible because the government will be there to bail them out with taxpayer money. That would put them in the same category as Bombardier, the CBC, Air Canada, Irving and others who either get government handouts or protection from competition.

All indications are the education “business” is going to see a downturn and yet UBCO seems hellbent on building its ugly skyscraper (in) downtown (Kelowna).

The way that project is shaping up, there is likely to be a massive cost overrun. Does that mean that taxpayers will be on the hook when UBCO is unable to complete it within budget? Maybe now would be a good time to pull the plug on the tower, which was never a good idea to begin with and build something more appropriate for the location, something less ambitious and something in good taste.

Peter Emery

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