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AUCC calls for more federal money

OTTAWA (CUP) – The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) has presented a briefing to the House of Commons standing committee on finance in hopes that millions of dollars will be set aside for government granting agencies, international student recruitment strategies, and Aboriginal student support in next year’s federal budget.

On Oct. 8, Paul Davidson, President and CEO of the AUCC, spoke to committee members in a follow-up report to their pre-budget recommendations from this past August.

“Now that short-term stimulus efforts have helped Canada emerge from the recession, Canada must continue to invest in generating knowledge,” read Davidson’s speaking notes from Oct. 8. “Our population is aging. We must be more productive so that proportionally fewer workers can support our society.”

In their pre-budget submissions sent to the finance committee on Aug. 14, the AUCC outlined three recommendations, which included investments in research through federal granting agencies, financial support for Aboriginal students, and funding for an international student recruitment strategy.

“This is part of the Budget 2010 process,” noted AUCC VP National Affairs André Dulude. The Oct. 8 briefing “was really to present the three requests – we were asked to go in with three priorities, three (requests).”

Each of the three requests included a five-year plan to direct the funding. In terms of research support, the AUCC has proposed investing $400 million each year for the first two years, starting in 2010, and subsequently investing $250 million per year in the three following years.

“We would seek an increase of $1.5 billion in total in first the core programs of the three granting councils,” Dulude explained. “They had a budget reduction last year of five per cent, so we’re hoping that this year the government will come up with an increase for direct and institutional costs, as well as more investments into post-doctoral fellows.”

The AUCC has also proposed a pilot project fund to help universities promote completion of secondary school in Aboriginal communities, with the ideal plan of funneling $65 million into the fund for the first year, and $55 million in each of the four years thereafter. The AUCC’s international recruitment strategy involves investing $20 million per year for five years to promote Canadian universities abroad.

“I must say that all parties were extremely receptive yesterday,” Dulude said about the Oct. 8 committee presentation. He further explained that the AUCC will continue to work with the government for the next month and a half to provide cost breakdowns for each of the three requests, followed by further consultations with the university and political communities, resulting in a formal submission to the Minister of Finance by late November.

The biggest federal investment in post-secondary education of late has been the $2 billion from January’s federal budget that was earmarked for the Knowledge Infrastructure Program. The program has already helped kick off nearly 400 construction projects at campuses across the country, according to the government’s Sept. 28 economic update. The AUCC is expected to release a report card on the impact of the Knowledge Infrastructure Program in the coming weeks.

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