Laurentian unhappy with funding formula

*The Sault Star *editorial Tuesday says that Laurentian University is losing $1 million a year in provincial funding for graduate students due to the distribution of those students not fitting a provincial funding formula.

LU was funded to admit 25 new PhD students and 95 new master’s students starting this, 2007/08, year. Instead, LU admitted 55 new PhD students and only 35 new master’s students. LU requested the province allow them to switch funding intended for new master’s students to instead fund the 30 PhD students.

The province said no, the formula is the formula.

The Sault Star says this is a problem and the formula needs to change.

I disagree.

While I normally would not support a rigid funding formula, the circumstances of this year lead me to.

The spring of 2007 saw the “double cohort” graduate from four-year degree programs. This increased demand for graduate programs and recruited an increase in Master’s program spaces. The province increased the funding of master’s programs to respond to this demand. The reality is that the funding has a policy purpose.

The purpose was to create the new of graduate study spaces available for students completing their undergraduate degrees last year. The province cannot provide money to achieve a set purpose and then allow universities to change that purpose. It does not matter how similar that purpose may seem. To allow LU to divert funds intended for “double cohort” graduate students to other, in this case PhD, students would be to allow universities to ignore public policy direction at will.

Let’s be clear, I don’t believe LU went out and acted in bad faith. To the contrary, I believe they admitted each qualified master’s applicant they had. They then decided to admit more PhD students in the hope that the funding would come anyway. They took a chance, one which didn’t work for them.

I’ve emailed the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities for comment and will update when I receive a reply.