Alberta’s two largest post-secondary institutions will be among the hardest hit by cuts to advanced education in the provincial budget on Thursday.
That means a $44-million cut to the U of A alone, as well as a one-time suspension of $35 million for infrastructure maintenance.
“The 6.9% cut to our Campus Alberta grant for this year, in addition to the loss of IMP funding, is significant,” wrote U of A president David Turpin in a blog post on Thursday. “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.”
“We cannot, however, expect our students and their families to shoulder this burden alone.”
Grant MacEwan University and Bow Valley College were hit with the largest cuts at 7.9 per cent each, while Christian institutions Ambrose University, Burman University, St. Mary’s University and The King’s University — and the former faith-based Concordia University of Edmonton — will not face budget cuts.
NAIT and SAIT face grant reductions of 2.6 and 5.5 per cent, respectively.
Laurie Chandler, press secretary to advanced education minister Demetrios Nicolaides, said Friday the decisions were made based on institutions’ abilities to absorb the cuts, not their individual mandates.
“No one wants to see an institution shut down,” said Chandler.
The cuts — which average at 5.1 per cent across all 26 institutions — total $117.6 million this year alone. The tuition freeze was also cancelled, allowing institutions to increased tuition by an average of 7 per cent each year for the next three years starting in 2020.
Aligned with the recommendations of the MacKinnon panel report, the UCP’s inaugural budget vows to shift post-secondaries to a performance-based funding model in the 2020-21 budget next spring. It remains unclear what further cuts could take place.
“The provincial government also has a critical role to play,” said Turpin. “Government investment in capacity and direction on how projected growth in demand will be managed is necessary to ensure that Albertans have access to the education they need here in their own province.”
In a Friday statement to Postmedia, Turpin said no decisions about how the university will shoulder the cuts have been made yet.
“Over the coming days and weeks, the university will be in discussion with Ministry of Advanced Education officials to determine specific details around the planned reductions, and future enrolment targets,” he said. “Only when we have this information will we have the full implication of today’s announcements and be able to offer further comment.”