Who cares about students?
I think that pretty much everything that needs to be said about the Saskatchewan Party’s post-secondary education policy can be summed up by one of their candidates: Bob Hawkins.
Hawkins was the University of Regina’s president from 2005 to 2006, and was perhaps one of the most disastrous presidents this university has ever had. In contrast to Vianne Timmons’ presidency, the Hawkins era was defined by huge budget cuts and, most infamously, cuts to classes offered by the university’s affiliated colleges, specifically Campion and Luther. Accordingly, when Hawkins stepped down as president, it wasn’t due to other professional interests; it was, according to a 2006 U of R press release, due to “differences of opinion on management philosophy and other issues.” Like I said, disastrous.
So the fact that Bob Hawkins is now a candidate for the Sask Party in the Regina Lakeview riding should be pretty indicative of the value that they’re placing on post-secondary education in this election, which is to say not much of a value at all.
The Sask Party’s post-secondary education plan can essentially be boiled down to two programs. The first is a $2000 grant to be given to high school graduates who enrol in a post-secondary institution or recognized training course. Details on the implementation of this program are slim, but it seems like it will follow a same path as the government’s “we’re going to mail you a cheque instead of providing adequate services” child care plan.
The second prong of their plan is to add 10 percent to any RESP that parents contribute to for post-secondary education, up to $250 per year.
Both of these plans seem like half-hearted gestures to me. The party’s current plan, which is to give an ever-increasing tax rebate for staying in Saskatchewan after graduating from university, is hardly enough to compensate for the outrageous increases in tuition that we’ve seen over the past fifteen years. As someone who has a degree and collects said tax rebate, I can tell you that it’s certainly nice to get some money each year – but that I would have greatly preferred to have paid less tuition in the first place.
The RESP plan, as well, doesn’t address the primary concern that should be considered when post-secondary education policy is being discussed, which is access. RESPs are taken out by families who expect that their children will go to university and that they will have the means to pay for it. Nowhere in the Sask. Party’s platform, outside of a $2000 cheque that won’t even begin to cover university costs, are there any steps being taken to improve access for the growing segment of poor families and their potentially university-bound children.
On the other side of the political spectrum, NDP post-secondary critic Cam Broten’s view on the Sask Party’s plan is that “a new scholarship program is fine, but it’s not the answer to rising tuition costs.” And true to form, the NDP have announced their plan is to freeze tuition at their current levels, as well as introducing 10,000 more spots available at SIAST. But with the NDP decimated in the polls by the Sask Party, and the profligate promises for increased spending that the NDP is proposing generally being rejected by the electorate, the ability for the NDP to deliver on any sort of post-secondary change seems doubtful.
But at least the NDP aren’t running Bob Hawkins.