The Thompson-Nicola Regional District has rejected a $250,000 funding request from Thompson Rivers University for a student endowment.
University brass were at a recent TNRD board meeting making a pitch on behalf of its Limitless campaign, a $50-million fundraising initiative.
The $250,000 from the regional district was to be doled out through 10 annual awards worth $1,000 over a 25-year period, according to TRU’s proposal.
Students based in the TNRD would receive the awards from TRU, where 75 per cent of high school grads from the regional district who attend B.C. post-secondary school have enrolled between 2013 and 2017, according to the university. TNRD staff proposed two funding options: $50,000 contributions annually for five years through general administration service property taxes or $250,000 in a one-time lump sum from reserves. Staff recommended the five-year option, which would give the board a chance to evaluate the funding source annually.
However, the board did not have an appetite to hand over regional tax dollars to the university.
TNRD Area J director (Copper Desert Country) Ronaye Elliott introduced a motion against the funding request. She told KTW education funding should come from the province.
“I don’t see any reason for this board to put money into TRU,” she told the board while making her motion. “They have mega amounts of money and they have mega amounts of support.”
Thompson Rivers University is expecting revenues of $233 million in 2019-2020, an amount that has grown due to a surging number of international students. The university approved its budget in March, a budget that has a a surplus of more than $14 million.
Clearwater Mayor Merlin Blackwell was also opposed to the university’s funding request.
“It’s been a long feeling in our community that TRU has been neglecting its commitment to rural education,” Blackwell said. “They’ve been dropping the ball on that, reducing services for quite a few years now.”
Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian said $250,000 was a significant request and noted 65 per cent of that funding would come from Kamloops taxpayers — about $160,000 — which he could not stomach. He suggested the money could be better used to invest in sidewalks around campus or the much-discussed overpass over Summit Drive.
“We should not be philanthropic with other people’s tax money,” he said.
Merritt Mayor Linda Brown, meanwhile, spoke in favour of TRU’s funding request, noting the money would be geared at TNRD students and not be used for the university’s operating costs.
Kamloops Coun. Kathy Sinclair suggested the TNRD provide a smaller bursary on behalf of the regional district.
The board voted to deny the funding request, with only Brown in favour of TRU’s proposal.