Alta. universities, colleges say UCP funding cuts are ‘significant’, ‘a challenge’

Post-secondary budget fallout
WATCH ABOVE: Alberta universities and colleges are bracing themselves for the fallout of this week's provincial budget. Some post-secondary institutions say the funding slash is "significant.” Julia Wong reports.

Alberta universities and colleges are bracing themselves for the fallout from cuts to post-secondary education as a result of the province’s 2019 budget.

On Thursday, the budget for advanced education was slashed five per cent from 2018 and will be down 12 per cent by 2023.

READ MORE: Highlights from Alberta budget 2019

Most institutions will see some type of funding decrease, but the biggest hit will be the University of Alberta and University of Calgary at nearly seven per cent as well as MacEwan University and Bow Valley College at almost eight per cent. NAIT will see a roughly 2.5 per cent funding decrease while SAIT will see a 5.5 per cent drop.

U of A President David Turpin calls the loss in funding “significant.”

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“Meeting the challenge of this budget cut and changes anticipated for the following years will not be easy, and we will need to make tough decisions,” Turpin wrote in a blog post.

“In the longer term, we will need to make significant, structural changes. The government has indicated that we will have some levers for generating new revenue, including tuition increases. We cannot, however, expect our students and their families to shoulder this burden alone,” Turpin said. “We must look to how our academic and administrative functions can evolve to enhance our core mission as the province moves towards a different revenue mix for post-secondary education in the province.”

READ MORE: Winners and losers in Alberta budget 2019

Other institutions in Edmonton echoed similar sentiment.

“The decrease in funding puts significant pressure on us,” said Marta Gold, NAIT senior media relations specialist, in a statement to Global News.

“NAIT has a strong record of financial stewardship and remains committed to operating in the most efficient way possible. We’ll continue to work closely with government to ensure we continue to provide the foundation for outstanding careers while meeting the polytechnic needs of the province today and into the future.”

A statement from MacEwan to Global News reiterates how cuts to the university’s operating grant are the highest in the sector:

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“This will require us to reduce the budget immediately.  This is one of the largest in-year cuts in our institution’s history. The reduction in our grant presents a significant challenge for the university and there will be implications across the institution.”

The statement also said the university must submit a plan to the provincial government by Dec. 2 that outlines how it will make reductions.

Kenzie Bowes, a second-year theatre student at the U of A, calls the budget and slashes to post-secondary education an “absolute frustration.”

“We knew when the UCP got elected we would be seeing a change, especially as an arts student, we knew our program was going to get cut but we’re already struggling,” she said.

“It’s a very specialized program, with very few students in it, but we are all so passionate about it. In order for us to keep up with how the industry is changing, with new technology, we have to have that money.”

A freeze on tuition will be lifted but capped at seven per cent to a maximum 21 per cent over three years. As of right now, it remains unclear what will happen to tuition at Alberta institutions but there are already concerns from students.

Bowes said she may face financial hardships if tuition goes up.

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“I do work full-time just to try and get through school. Right now, I’m currently in the process of trying to get a line of credit just to help me out,” she said.

U of A student Rami Elkhatib, a third-year who is studying business, said tuition increases will hurt him financially.

“It’s going to be a burden for me,” he said.

“Definitely might have to increase some hours at work, possible take out a few more loans.”