The UCP government’s Budget 2021 has dealt another serious blow to a post-secondary education sector already reeling from two years of deep funding cuts.
Alberta’s post-secondary institutions will lose another $135 million in provincial funding this year, with an additional $113 million reduction planned in 2022-23. This is on top of the $182 million in cuts implemented last year.
The budget also confirmed that the province intends to proceed with its ill-conceived plan to introduce a performance-based funding model, which will almost certainly mean even less funding, more uncertainty, and increased red tape for the province’s post-secondary institutions.
Once again, the University of Alberta has been disproportionately singled out for more severe cuts than other universities and colleges in the province, and is being forced to absorb another 11% cut—an additional $60.1 million reduction in funding—in 2020-21.
This is the third budget in a row since the UCP was elected in 2019 that has unfairly targeted the province’s flagship university. In the October 2019 budget, the University of Alberta suffered a 6.9% in-year budget cut, which reduced provincial funding by $44.4 million. The university had to deal with another 10.7% reduction, or $65.9 million, in the February 2020 budget.
Combining these cuts with the new cuts announced on February 25, the University of Alberta has lost $170 million in provincial funding—almost 30% of its total Campus Alberta grant—in just two and a half years.
The result of these short-sighted cuts have been devastating for the University of Alberta. University administration has been forced to implement a rushed restructuring plan to try to deal with cuts that are deeper and faster than any university has had to deal with. More than 1,100 support staff will lose their jobs as the university restructures to try and balance its books, with predictable consequences for the quality of learning, research, and student experience the university will be able to deliver. At the same time, students are facing tuition hikes of 7% a year and reduced financial support in the midst of a global health pandemic and a reeling provincial economy that will need to respond to the global transition to a low-carbon economy in the coming years and decades.
It’s time to tell Minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides and Premier Kenney to stop targeting the University of Alberta with disproportionate cuts and to stop cutting post-secondary education funding at a time when Albertans need access to quality, affordable education more than ever.
Here are five things you can do to stand up for post-secondary education and the University of Alberta. Emailing government officials can sometimes feel pointless, but it's important that they hear from Albertans about the impact of funding cuts.
1. Use NASA's online tool to send an email to Minister of Advanced Education Nicolaides and Premier Kenney to tell them to stop targeting Alberta's post-secondary education system and the University of Alberta with unsustainable cuts. You MLA will also get the email.
2. Emails are great, but phone calls also have an impact and are an important way to follow-up on your email if you don't get a response. You can call Minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides at 780-427-5777 and find contact information for other members of his staff online.
4. Sign up to request your free #stopPSEcuts lawn sign to show your support for PSE in your neighbourhood.
5. Support the campaign by Alberta students by sending a message through the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS).
Read NASA's initial response to the provincial budget and cuts to the University of Alberta (February 26, 2021)
Read the Budget 2021 update from UAlberta President Bill Flanagan (February 26, 2021)