The $100,000,000 Giveaway: Who Says Education Doesn't Get Enough Money?

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When a part-time student enrolls in just one course in a British Columbia public high school, the Ministry of Education provides a "Basic Allocation" operating grant of $3,339 to that school's district. The grant is provided even if the student rarely attends the class and subsequently drops or fails the course. That is a great deal of money to spend with so uncertain a return. It is especially generous given that the enrollment of a full-time student taking 8 courses attracts only 60 percent more grant dollars - just $5,343.

Analysis of data provided by the Ministry of Education suggests that this disproportionately high level of grant support for part-time students, apparently unique to British Columbia, may annually provide the province's 60 public school districts with at least $100,000,000 more than they would receive if, instead, the Ministry adopted the simple, transparent, and widely-used formula that funds students in direct proportion to the number of courses they take.

There is no evidence that school districts incur higher costs for part-time students than they do for full-time students. Indeed, because the labour costs associated with counseling, teaching, and assessment are by far the largest operating costs facing the province's school districts, and because these costs are directly proportional to the number of courses taken, it is likely that full-time students represent a considerably higher cost burden to school districts than do part-time students.

Further, there is no evidence that the additional funds generated by part-time students are used effectively to ensure that these part-time students are successful. Analysis of grade 12-level provincial examination results and graduation rates suggests that student success is more likely when students take more courses each year rather than fewer.

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