U of R President says layoffs are necessary following Sask. budget

University of Regina president Vianne Timmons says layoffs are coming due to the provincial budget. Adrian Raaber/Global News

University of Regina (U of R) president Vianne Timmons said the institution has growing operating costs and a growing student body. In the 2018-19 provincial budget, operating grants for post-secondary instituitons are remaining at 2017-18 levels.

Last year, the U of R saw a five per cent cut to their operating budget.

“It’s going to be a challenging budget for us, because we have costs that we can’t control that are increasing all the time,” Timmons said.

“So last year we actually did lay-off over 20 people, so we did have to lay-off full time people. We will be doing the same this year. We will be having to cut positions,” she continued.

READ MORE: University of Regina announces more layoffs as the result of funding cuts

In addition to the layoffs last year, 11 vacant positions at the U of R went unfilled.

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Timmons said the university’s board will be presented with a number of options as they work through their budgeting process.

“To reduce layoffs we will have to increase tuition. That’s the only option we have,” Timmons said.

Last year, tuition was raised by 2.5 per cent. It has gone up every year for the past decade.

READ MORE: U of R raises tuition once again in 2017-2018 budget

“We’re committed to affordability. We’re in the bottom third in terms of tuition pricing in the country, and we will keep ourselves in that spot,” Timmons said.

Timmons added she understands the province is in a tight fiscal situation with their three-year balance plan, but hopes the province will see the U of R as “an economic driver” and invest in the institution.

University of Saskatchewan

Less than a week before the April 10 provincial budget, the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) hiked tuition by 4.8 per cent. That came after a 2.3 per cent tuition increase last spring.

U of S president Peter Stoicheff says this recent increase is a result of their funding decrease in the 2017-18 budget.

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READ MORE: University of Saskatchewan hitting students with 4.8% tuition increase

The U of S will see $5 million in funding restored, bringing their operating budget to $345 million. The advanced education ministry said this boost is to partially address a funding adjustment that took place in 2015-16.

Stoicheff said the devil will be in the details of their provincial funding, but he is encouraged by an overall increase to advanced education funding. The U of S has a $729 million overall budget – it is a 1.5 per cent increase over last year.

“It’s a modest increase, but it wasn’t the five per cent decrease that we saw last year. So we’re going to make the most of that,” Stoicheff said.

“We’re going to read that as a signal the provincial government recognizes the value of post-secondary education.”

On April 10, Stoicheff said he had not yet seen the funding letter for the U of S, so it would be too early to comment on budget plans.

However, he has heard the students would like to see predictability in tuition increases. That’s something he would also like to see.

“So we can say to students, let’s say next year, this is what your tuition will look like for the next two, or three, or four years, instead of having to figure it out on an annual basis, which is very difficult for students,” Stoicheff said.

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There are other areas post-secondary institutions are receiving direct funding increases. The College of Medicine at the U of S is receiving an $18.4 million increase to an operating budget of $87.8 million. The college’s accreditation was threatened last year due to underfunding.

READ MORE: Province restores $20M funding to U of S College of Medicine

Capital funding for repairs and maintenance is also going up $900,000.

Minister Response

The provincial government remains committed to balancing the budget next year, so money will be tight.

Advanced Education Minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor acknowledged that it is a difficult situation. She said she will be meeting with the boards of governors from the universities and Saskatchewan Polytechnic to discuss revenue and savings ideas.

“I think nursing is a logical place to look at. All three of our institutions offer nursing programs, and I think that’s a reasonable place to look at, and they’re actually interested in doing that as well because there is some duplication there,” Beaudry-Mellor explained.

The minister said that Saskatchewan Polytechnic does have industry partners to help generate revenue, and the U of S board of governors have been discussing that option. She hopes the U of R will also explore that option as well.

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In regard to tuition predictability, Beaudry-Mellor says she has spoken with the two universities about revisiting the funding formula.

“They’re both excited about that discussion. I think it’s long overdue. It’s a very complex and complicated formula, and we do need one that’s transparent and equitable,” she said.

The minister doesn’t think a new formula would be attainable by next budget, but it’s an important conversation to start.

As for occasional erratic tuition increases, if annual tuition rates are the reality, Beadury-Mellor would like to see them be in line with the consumer price index.

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