Baillie wants funding tied more strongly to employment
PC leader says if elected he’d try to renegotiate federal funding allocations
November 21, 2012, 3:26 PM AST
Last updated November 22, 2012, 2:36 PM AST
The Progressive Conservative Party leader wants to see more private-sector measures applied to universities.
Leader Jamie Baillie says universities should be linking graduates to available jobs and graduates should be entering an economy ready to employ them.
“I do believe our universities are a great source of potential for wealth and new entrants to the workforce for our province,” said Baillie in an exclusive interview with UNews.ca.
Baillie sits behind the NDP and Liberal leaders in the polls, with 22 per cent of support among decided voters, according to a survey by Corporate Research Associates.
The Nova Scotia Community Colleges have been matching programs to the economy, said Baillie, and pumping out much-needed tradespeople. The province increased funding for colleges in recent years, something Baillie said is necessary, considering the number of tradespeople needed to fill the jobs that are supposed to be created by the shipbuilding contract.
The province should be giving funding to universities based on a similar philosophy, he said.
“That same thinking has to be applied to our universities as well. What do we want to get out of $300 million or so that the government sends to our universities every year?” said Baillie. “We want to make sure the funding is tied to those outputs.”
Provincial funding should be going to areas to directly benefit students and employment, said Baillie, and not to “bloated administrations.”
“I want it to get to student tuition relief, to more commercialized research and to more policy development that the province can take advantage of,” he said.
Baillie supports cutting back on university administrative costs, but calls that “the smallest part of the equation.”
The federal funding formula is the main problem, he said, something he would renegotiate if elected.
“Nova Scotia has been hard done by in the national formula,” said Baillie. “The federal government transfers money for universities based on the population of your province not the number of students that you’re actually educating which of course is illogical.”
That number of out-of-province students is increasing, and they’re paying higher tuition than Nova Scotia students. Baillie doesn’t want to see tuition prevent people from coming to study in the province, but said it should be higher than the locals who fund the universities through taxes.
“I’m very concerned that we don’t price our university out-of-province tuition so high that we actually end up hurting ourselves by stopping the flow of out-of-province students out of Nova Scotia, both of out of province or international students,” said Baillie.
Nova Scotia students receive a bursary for studying in-province and a tax credit if they stay after graduating, making the tuition for out-of-province students higher. The province’s current memorandum of understanding with the universities recommends universities and the province discuss removing the tuition cap for out-of-province students, and increasing the difference between fees. That’s already been done to international students who face almost double the tuition. Baillie said there’s a balance to be struck.
“We have to make sure that differential doesn’t get so high that we actually choke off international students,” he said.
Enrollment of Nova Scotia students in university has been dropping in recent years, and the Canadian Federation of Students says students from families with incomes more than $100,000 a year are twice as likely to attend university as those from low- and middle-income families. It’s something Baillie says shouldn’t be the case.
“No one — no one in our province, in our country should be denied higher education because of their family income,” he said, himself a Dalhousie graduate and a past member of its board of governors for six years.
While the Progressive Conservative Party has not clearly committed to debt relief or tuition reductions, Baillie said he’s dedicated to making education accessible. Tuition should be lowered to the national average, tax credits should be increased to help people pay back debt after graduation and university bursary programs should help students get there in the first place, he said.
As for reversing the cuts to government grants and the raises to tuition made by the current NDP government, Baillie said he couldn’t commit.
“I’m being very careful not to make promises like that which people have seen to be empty promises because until you see the state of the books, they’re almost impossible to make and keep. I don’t want to disappoint people.”
See below for a condensed video of the interview with Jamie Baillie. Click on a question to go directly to that part of the interview.