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NAIT to cut up to 240 jobs in wake of Alberta post-secondary funding reduction

NAIT about to cut up to 240 jobs because of Alberta’s budget
WATCH ABOVE: NAIT is about to cut up to 240 jobs as a direct result of the provincial budget. It comes after SAIT announced a similar number of job losses last week. Breanna Karstens-Smith reports.

The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology said Monday it will have to cut between seven and nine per cent of its staff — which means between 190 and 240 positions.

In a statement, the post-secondary school pointed the finger at funding decreases in the past two provincial budgets.

“For 2020-21, NAIT expects to receive a total reduction of 6.8 per cent ($11.2 million) to our Campus Alberta and Targeted Enrolment grants. An infrastructure maintenance grant ($6.4 million) that was eliminated last fall was restored with Budget 2020.

LISTEN BELOW: Garry Wilson with the NAIT Academic Staff Association, joins the Ryan Jespersen Show

While officials have been looking at other ways to reduce costs and grow revenues, the school is anticipating two more years of funding reductions.

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“Even with these voluntary measures, difficult decisions must be made to further reduce spending,” NAIT’s statement reads.

It said the final number of job cuts will depend on the board’s decisions and “choices made by staff in the coming weeks.”

“That does not necessarily mean all are going to be academic staff,” said Garry Wilson, president of the NAIT Academic Staff Association. “We’re hoping that this is a way that NAIT can start alleviate some of the what we feel is administrative bloat here at NAIT.”

“Our concern is going to be that they’re going to now bring in contract instructors here to alleviate anybody who’s been a full-time member that’s leaving. So that’s our concern, that we’re now going to drop full-time instructors and bring in contract instructors.”

READ MORE: Alberta budget 2020 forecasts $6.8B deficit

The United Conservative government released its second budget on Thursday and funding for post-secondary is going down.

Advanced Education’s budget is $5.1 billion in 2020-21, a six-per cent cut from the forecast in the last budget. Budget 2020 implements the first phase of a new funding model that includes base funding from the province but is also based on a school’s performance.

Over three years, the UCP will trim Advanced Education spending by 10 per cent to “encourage post-secondary institutions to find efficiencies,” the budget document said.

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The province also lists post-secondary schools’ “own-source/reserves” as funding sources.

A closer look at Alberta’s 2020 budget
A closer look at Alberta’s 2020 budget

The advanced education minister said comparable provinces are able to deliver effective post-secondary education at a lower cost.

“When we look at Alberta, we have one of the highest cost jurisdictions in the entire country,” Demetrios Nicolaides said.

“On average, it costs about $36,000 per student, whereas in B.C. it’s about $31,000 and in Ontario $21,000. So, we’re confident that learning lessons from other provinces, and being more prudent stewards of taxpayer dollars, that we can deliver high quality service at a lower cost.”

He said one challenge is administrative costs.

“One of the numbers that the MacKinnon report demonstrated was that, on a per-student basis, Alberta spends about $8,000 per student on administrative costs, whereas other provinces are substantially less.”

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READ MORE: SAIT to eliminate 230 positions following Alberta budget cuts

On Friday, SAIT announced it would be laying off 150 staff and not filling another 80 vacancies in the wake of the UCP government’s post-secondary budget cuts.

The cuts will be across several departments, including administration, management and academic divisions, but didn’t say specifically which academic programs might be impacted.

MacEwan University said Monday it will review the impact of the provincial budget on its budget over the next week.

“The changes being made to the post-secondary sector will affect every institution differently,” Acting President John McGrath said in a statement. “We will continue to prioritize students and the learning experience.”

UCP government increasing how much it collects for education
UCP government increasing how much it collects for education

READ MORE: Alberta budget 2020 winners and losers

While the University of Calgary didn’t announce any job cuts immediately following Thursday’s budget, it didn’t rule out more could be on the way.

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In November, the university announced the elimination of 250 jobs following the province’s interim budget tabled in October.

READ MORE: 250 jobs being eliminated at University of Calgary following 2019 Alberta budget

On Friday, U of C president and vice-chancelor Ed McCauley said: “Given the magnitude of this cut, this could lead to… more positions being lost.”

The Official Opposition slammed the UCP’s budget on Monday, saying Premier Jason Kenney is “attacking post-secondary students and staff.”

“Just days ago, they tried to suggest that they were the ones who were concerned with growing the trades in Alberta,” NDP leader Rachel Notley said.

“But between SAIT and NAIT over the course of the last four days, we’ve seen roughly 500 people lose their jobs and those are the places that those programs are delivered.

“So to suggest that they actually care about or are going to grow access to apprenticeship and trades training, in the face of making huge cuts at the very institutions that provide that trade, is dishonest to Albertans.”

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“It’s insulting, quite frankly,” NDP education critic David Eggen said. “It’s a body blow to these institutions. Unfortunately, I think it’s just the beginning. This is just the first couple of days.”

The NDP said University of Alberta students are facing a seven per cent tuition hike and will also be paying more in residence fees and meal plans.

READ MORE: Alberta Budget 2020 will impact education in Lethbridge: ‘I don’t know how many layoffs’

In an online post on Feb. 28, U of A president David Turpin said leadership has been “preparing the institution’s 2020-21 budget on the assumption of a five per cent cut to the Campus Alberta Grant in addition to rolling in the in-year 2019-20 cut of 6.9 per cent to base budget.

“Now we must redouble our efforts and we recognize there are more difficult decisions to come, including further job losses.”

Turpin said officials would be meeting immediately to respond to the provincial budget news.

“The government of Alberta’s Budget 2020 means that we will need to continue on our path of implementing substantive and structural changes at the U of A. For many years, we have been talking as a community about the changing landscape in PSE funding models.

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“While we have been positioning the institution to make this transition, we are now being asked to make this transition in a much shorter time frame of three years. To achieve this will require major structural change and will also require partnership with the government to provide us with the flexibility we need to transition to a new funding model.”

What does budget 2020 mean for Alberta education funding?
What does budget 2020 mean for Alberta education funding?