The University of Regina had hoped to see an operating grant increase of 4.8 per cent. [Daryl Mitchell/Flickr]
The government’s lower than hoped commitment to post-secondary education prompts warnings of program cuts, staff layoffs & higher tuition fees.
Saskatchewan Finance Minister Ken Krawetz warned that his 2013–2014 budget would be tight. Released on March 20, the financial plan did little to relieve concerns about the future for post-secondary education in the province.
“At a time of unprecedented growth in the provincial economy, post-secondary education seems to have taken a back seat to tax cuts and football stadiums,” said University of Regina Faculty Association chair Gary Tompkins. “This budget will lead to a reduction in accessibility of post-secondary education in Saskatchewan, making it more difficult for young people to participate in the province’s economic future.”
Universities and regional colleges will receive 2.1 per cent or $14.3 million more for operations. The University of Regina had hoped to see an operating grant increase of 4.8 per cent.
“It is disappointing the government has chosen to force universities in Saskatchewan to consider further layoffs, elimination of academic programs and tuition increases,” Tompkins noted.
Other educators in the province also echoed concerns about inadequate post-secondary investment.
“The university loses autonomy when it doesn’t receive operating grants at the level it needs,” said Doug Chivers, chair of the University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association. “We still have a major budget problem on this campus … an estimated $45 million deficit over the next few years.”
The budget also increases funding to the program that refunds tuition for graduates remaining in Saskatchewan. But students say the plan doesn’t go far enough in addressing financial barriers to education.
Kent Peterson, a graduate student at the University of Regina and the Canadian Federation of Students’ representative in Saskatchewan, told Maclean’s magazine the graduate retention program was a wrong priority of the government.
“They need to focus on upfront barriers to education, not back-end tax credits,” he said.