University, not what it used to be
Wilfrid Laurier has come to the point where the university’s debt has become too high for it to operate effectively.
Fortunately, the government has allowed WLU to defer pension payments for one year while the school finds ways to get back on track. To begin its rehabilitation, Laurier has decided to make cuts of 5 per cent to each department this year and an additional 6 per cent next year.
Some departments have made more cuts where possible; fortunately the VP: academic’s department, easily the largest department within the university and arguably the most important, has been allowed to hold its cuts for another year while administration figures out how best to manage the situation.
Many post-secondary institutions across the country are in similar financial circumstances, so it appears that Laurier has dealt fairly well with the budget given the widespread funding problem.
Laurier’s financial situation, though, is part of a much larger problem.
The governments’ financial assistance to post-secondary institutes is fleeting. While Canada and Ontario assist failing automotive industries like General Motors, little aid is being given to education and innovation.
Due to the lack of support from the government, universities have taken to orienting their budgets and goals to maximize profits.
While the lack of funding for post-secondary education has been a long-term issue, the recession has only amplified problems surrounding it and perhaps this is for the better.
To overcome the problems universities are faced with we need to change the way we perceive education entirely.
The model of post-secondary education that university is based on does not apply well to modern life anymore. We have come to expect universities to provide us with skills necessary for the work force instead of treating them as institutes of higher learning.
There is no simple resolution to re-evaluate the university degree or the institution and its place within society. However, a period of decline, such as this, offers the opportunity to explore what universities offer society and how to ensure they remain relevant.