Diversity, Funding, and Opportunity: What the 2018 Budget Means for Students
It is no surprise that budgets are on the minds of most students. From making sure one has enough money to eat, buy textbooks, and pay rent, to finding ways to stretch those last few dollars at the end of the month, students have a close relationship with budgets. Despite this intimate understanding of personal budgets, most students don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the federal budget. Federal budgets are presented every year, usually in February or March, and outline what revenue the government expects, and how it plans to spend its billions of dollars. Of course, not every aspect of the budget will impact all of us. Many parts, however, do have a direct impact on the lives of students.
Here are three major impacts the federal budget is likely to have on McGill students:
1. Increasing faculty diversity
With an emphasis on attracting more diverse researchers to Canadian universities, the 2018 Budget means that students will likely begin seeing more women and younger professors represented in their departments. The 2018 budget proposes investing $210 million over five years to the Canada Research Chairs program, which funds positions that aim to attract “the world’s most accomplished and promising minds.” Along with the initial $210 million over five years, the budget proposes an additional $50 million per year ongoing, with an emphasis on funding early-career researchers and women.
While the budget appears promising in terms of diversifying the age and gender of researchers at Canadian universities, it does little to ensure that students will see more racial and ethnic diversity among faculty. Although the budget specifically mentions supporting early-career professors and women, it does not specify a plan to recruit more racialized and Indigenous researchers, instead stating a vague expectation that universities will grant their allotted research positions to “researchers whose diversity better represents Canada’s population”.
2. Heavy emphasis on science
With the political war on science taking place just south of the border, Budget 2018 provides refreshing government support of science. The budget proposes $763 million over five years to help “provide the tools researchers need” through the Canada Foundation for Innovation, which supports research in a variety of fields, but heavily prioritizes health and agriculture funding.
Along with the funding generally allocated to the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Budget 2018 also invests an additional $160 million to the foundation’s Major Science Initiatives Fund. Additionally, the budget provides $572.5 million over five years towards developing big data and digital research infrastructure. These initiatives have the potential to substantially facilitate the efforts of researchers and thus improve the everyday lives of Canadians.
Despite the importance of investing in these types of scientific projects, Budget 2018 fails to provide any parallel allocations to research in the humanities. As such, while university students can expect to see improvement to Canada’s scientific endeavours, they will also notice a further widening of the funding and status gap between the arts and sciences.
3. Increasing opportunities to make money and gain experience over the summer
For most university students, summer does not present itself as four months of couch-surfing. Instead, many students try to find a summer job or internship. Summer jobs help students gain valuable work experience and earn much-needed money. Budget 2018 invests in youth by providing $448.5 million over five years to the Youth Employment Strategy. Much of this funding will go toward doubling the number of government-funded student jobs. With broader issues of unaffordable tuition prices (which often cannot be paid off with just the funds from working over the summer) and precarious work conditions for youth, the emphasis on summer jobs does far from enough to assure that youth are given fair access to opportunity. Nonetheless, Budget 2018 presents a positive step towards ensuring more students and youth can access summer jobs to build skills, earn money, and give back to the community.
The 2018 budget is 367 pages, covering every aspect of federal responsibility, from pensions to international trade. While some decisions are unlikely to affect most students, like a pilot project regarding seniors’ health in New Brunswick, other decisions will have an immediate and tangible impact on students. From diversifying the people who teach us, to widening the subject funding gap, to providing more opportunities for summer work experience, Budget 2018 is sure to have a significant impact on McGill students.