A 2% increase to operating grants for universities like Saskatchewan (pictured here) is included in budget 2012, along with a 4% increase in tuition fees. [The Saskatoon Starphoenix]
Resource-rich Saskatchewan posted another budget surplus of $95 million, but the 2012–2013 spending plan announced March 20 gave little to post-secondary education.
“This is generally a restraint budget,” said Gary Tompkins, chair of the University of Regina Faculty Association.
Post-secondary institutions will receive $12 million to support operating costs, an increase of 2 per cent over last year.
The insufficient increase means universities will seek to rely more heavily on tuition fees to put money into the coffers. The budget provides for “tuition increases to be held to 4 per cent for key direct entry programs,” but for the rates to increase to 9 per cent for those in business, engineering and nursing, while law students will face a 16.6 per cent hike.
Before the budget was released, University of Regina Students’ Union president Kent Peterson spoke about his hopes for post-secondary funding.
“We are constantly being told by the provincial government that Saskatchewan is booming — so our position is, let’s invest that money into colleges and universities so that low-income families, First Nations and aboriginal people, single mothers, and all people can afford to get an education and participate fully in the economy,” he said.
While initiatives to freeze or reduce tuition weren’t part of budget 2012–2013, it did introduce a new Saskatchewan Advantage Scholarship that offers graduating high school students $500 a year for four year to pursue a post-secondary education.
As of January 2013, the province will also provide a 10 per cent matching grant to Registered Education Savings Plan contributions, to a maximum of $250 per child per year.
Additionally, the budget sets up a student loan forgiveness program of up to $20,000 for new nurses and nurse practitioners and up to $120,000 for new doctors willing to practice in under-served rural and remote communities for five years.
The province is also discontinuing up-front bursaries to students from families with above-middle incomes, in order to save $3 million.