Ottawa's budget good news for SFU

Mar 06, 2003, vol. 26, no. 5
By Howard Fluxgold

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Both federal and provincial budgets were handed down on Feb. 18 but for SFU it was Ottawa's document that provided the biggest impact.

“The outstanding good news from Ottawa is the establishment of a permanent program to cover the indirect costs of research,” proclaimed Bruce Clayman, VP-research. Last year the federal government instituted a one-time program with a budget of $200 million for indirect costs, but the current budget allocates $225 million for the budget year in an ongoing program.

SFU will receive about $5 million for its 2003-04 budget year to cover indirect costs, up from about $4.4 million for 2002-03. This represents about 2 per cent of the total university budget and about half the full indirect costs. Indirect costs can include the purchase, operation and maintenance expenses, for shared equipment and facilities, grants facilitation, library and research archiving expenses, and technology transfer and commercialization services.

Clayman explained that “the universities independently and through the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada lobbied long and hard” to convince the government to cover the indirect costs. He says the federal government “realized that if you are going to have a knowledge based economy somebody is going to have to pay the full costs of research, and full costs include direct costs, which they have been funding, and indirect costs.”

In the past, the university had to pick up the indirect costs which often meant insufficient shared resources and in some cases diversion of resources from other activities within the university “including undergraduate teaching, which was unfortunate and something we didn't want to happen,” notes Clayman.

Students also gained financially from the federal budget through changes to the Canada student loan (CSL) program. They will now be allowed to earn up to $1,700 a year, including award and bursary income - an increase from $600 - before their income reduces the amount of support they are eligible to receive through student loans and grants.

In addition, students will now be able to receive up to $1,800 in merit-based scholarships before the amount they receive is cut back.

Charlotte French, director of student academic resources, says that so far the province has not confirmed whether the changes will be adopted for the fall 2003. “We have to wait and see what the province is able to do because rules are set for the Canada student loan program federally but everything is administered provincially. The province may not be able to adopt the changes in time for processing this summer.”

The Home Instructional Program for Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY), which SFU helped launch and coordinates at Britannia community centre, could be a beneficiary of an additional $900 million in the federal budget over five years for early learning and child care. HIPPY is a worldwide network of community run projects dedicated to helping families in poverty realize their potential as home educators and instill in their preschool aged children an appreciation for learning. The money is dependent upon Ottawa and the provinces reaching agreement on its use. Debbie Bell, community education program director in the continuing studies department, says, “It remains a mystery how the province will administer the money.”

Finally, the B.C. government has given SFU's $500,000 so the university can increase enrollment by an additional 84 students. “On the whole, the provincial budget, with this one exception, was pretty much as the university expected,” says Pat Hibbitts, VP-finance and administration.

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