Deficit relief and new money in Quebec budget

The Quebec government presented a budget on Tuesday that gives deficit relief to universities and promises to give education higher priority in the next decade.

The budget allocates $100 million for deficit reduction on a pro-rata basis to the universities regardless of the size of their deficit. Quebec universities face a total deficit of about $88 million this year. After several years of balanced budgets in the early 1990s, Concordia was posting a $3.8-million deficit for the year 1999-2000 as of last week.

The budget provides more than $160 million more for research -- $120 million to match grants from the federal CFI program, and $40.3 million more for the Quebec granting agencies.

Hard-pressed graduate students were given a break in the Quebec budget. They got a $24-million increase in bursaries, and their tax exemption on scholarships has been raised from $500 to $3,000 to match a provision of last month's federal budget.

Yesterday, Education Minister Fran¨ois Legault described how he has allocated the $1 billion he promised education in the wake of last month's youth summit. Universities are to get $600 million of this amount over three years, and in return, the minister said he will require proof that they are spending the money efficiently and wisely. The $600 million is to be allocated to universities over three years: $120 million in the first, $180 million in the second, and $300 million in the third.

In his speech on Wednesday, Legault said the next decade is crucial for education in Quebec. He called for more involvement of the community at large, including work-study and continuing education programs.

Concordia's Chief Financial Officer Larry English said he welcomed the financial infusion, especially since it is over and above the money already promised to cover cost-of-living increases.

- Barbara Black

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