The provincial government has taken an important step towards reducing the cost of higher education, by endorsing open textbooks for 40 college and university courses in the first and second year.
This is a solid recognition that the cost of textbooks is a severe impediment towards getting an education without going to an unrealistic level of debt. Textbooks shoot up in price each year, it seems, and instructors require them for courses. Yet they often have little or no resale value, nor are they useful to most students in the longer term.
Open textbooks will be available for free on the internet, and this is part of a wider trend to making more course material available online.
This is a concrete step forward and Advanced Education Minister John Yap deserves credit for championing this initiative.
There are many other areas of higher education also needing a good look. One is the high level of student debt. Tuition fees have gone up steadily under the BC Liberals, and while they do need to rise, the province must balance the cost of tuition with other factors such as the cost of living. For students in the Lower Mainland and Victoria, the cost of living is high and the ability to obtain good-paying jobs to help finance education has diminished.
Another area the province must deal with is the types of non-academic courses and training being offered. The NDP has proposed a much more intense approach to trades training, and this is needed.
Given news that a B.C. coal mine is importing workers from China, because B.C. apparently cannot supply trained workers, this must become a high priority. There is no way that B.C. should be importing miners from China to work in coal mines here — whether the mines are owned by Chinese companies or not.
Training in many other fields also must be expanded. There is a need for highly-trained people in construction, computer design, aerospace, millwright work and many other fields. The B.C. government needs to examine if more focus should go into this training, and less on academic courses — given that many university graduates are finding it difficult to obtain jobs in their fields without going back to school for a master’s degree.
Advanced education has a direct bearing on B.C.’s future — economically and socially. It must be a priority.