B.C. post-secondary school grants lag behind enrolment

Grants per student dropped by an average of 1.9% since 2013 at B.C.’s top five schools

Operating grants at the province’s top universities have not kept pace with growth in enrolment.

Overall, the top five universities on Business in Vancouver’s 2017 list of the biggest post-secondary institutions in B.C. (issue 1457; October 3-9), based on full-time equivalent student enrolment, have reported steady operating grant growth over the past five years, but this has been outpaced by enrolment, resulting in an overall drop in grant dollars per student over the same period.

Enrolment numbers at the province’s top five post-secondary schools have increased by an average of 5.7% since 2013. During the same period, the operating grants for these schools have increased by an average of 3.7%. The discrepancy has caused operating grants per student for the top five to fall by an average of 1.9%.

The University of Victoria’s (UVic) operating grant per student rose 8%, increasing to $11,132 in 2017 from $10,301 in 2013. The school’s total operating grant rose by 17.1% or $31 million, to $212 million this year.

Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) operating grant also rose, by $2.6 million or 1.2% between 2013 and 2017. Over the same period, its enrolment fell. In 2017, SFU had 26,489 students, down 0.4% or 102 students since 2013.

The University of British Columbia (UBC) had the greatest drop in operating grant relative to its Vancouver enrolment, with the amount falling by 8.4%, to $12,168 per student this year from $13,290 in 2013. UBC in Vancouver had the largest five-year student growth, with enrolment increasing by 11.5%, or 5,033 students, to 48,891 in 2017 from 43,858 in 2013. UBC’s operating grant growth, at 2.1%, was second only to UVic’s over the five-year period.

Only two schools suffered an operating grant drop during the five years between 2013 and 2017, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) and the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). KPU had the largest five-year drop in operating grant, falling by 1.5% or $1 million to $66.5 million in 2017. KPU also experienced the biggest one-year drop in operating grant per student of the top five universities in the province, falling 3.3% to $5,615 per student in 2017 from $5,804 in 2016. BCIT’s operating grant fell by 0.25% or $1.3 million in 2017 to $132.7 million.