On Feb. 27, the United Conservative Party (UCP) released its second budget. This budget cuts operating funds to universities by 6.3 per cent, from $5.47 million to $5.13 million, which can be found on page 130 and 212 of the Fiscal Plan 2020-23, which can be found on the Government of Alberta website.
Post-secondary institutions will also receive $288 million over the next three years to build and renew infrastructure, found on page 157. However, Fiscal Plan 2020-23 does keep the funding of $8.8 million for the Alberta Campus Mental Health Fund, but it does not confirm whether that funding is going to be maintained in the future.
Fiscal Plan 2020-23 launches the Foreign Graduate Entrepreneur Program, found on page 46, which will help foreign nationals who have graduated from Alberta post-secondary institutions by giving them the option of staying in Canada permanently. Savings will come from travel restrictions, ending under-enrolled programs, and reducing staff, which can be found on page 130.
Fiscal plan 2020-23 also introduces performance-based funding, post-secondary institutions will be expected to provide 48 per cent of operating expenses by 2022 through private sector involvement (PSIs) — up from 43 per cent of operating in the 2018-29 Fiscal Plan — about a $100 million decrease in funding from the Government of Alberta found on page 130.
MacEwan University’s Board of Governors recently approved a tuition increase of up to 10 per cent next year, depending on your program of study, which may continue to occur over the next two years. This decision was in response to the first Fiscal Plan released by the UCP. Fiscal Plan 2019-23 cut post-secondary funding by five per cent, tuition increase limited to the maximum of seven per cent annually or an overall 21 per cent over three years, ended the five-year tuition freeze, increased interest on student loans, and cut operating costs by 7.9 per cent.
The Students’ Association of MacEwan University (SAMU) responded to the decision made by the MacEwan’s Board of Governors by holding an information table to inform students on the 10 per cent maximum tuition increase. This follows the Nov. 18, 2019 march and rally hosted by SAMU to demonstrate concerns over the 2019-23 Fiscal Plan. Cole Baker, SAMU’s vice president external, said in an email “SAMU is concerned about Budget 2020 and the impact it will have on our students. Our Campus Alberta Grant has been reduced by 2.2 per cent on top of the 7.9 per cent reduction we received in Budget 2019. The operational grant also has the capacity to further reduce when the Investment Management Agreement (IMA) is implemented at MacEwan which dictates 15 per cent of the grant. The IMA is composed of performance-based metrics that the institution must fulfill and, if they do not, the grant will be reduced. There is much uncertainty surrounding these agreements such as which metrics will be used. This could result in reduced services and supports for students and the potential for more tuition and fees.
“Further to this, the mental health grant has been renewed for one year at $8.8 million across Alberta. This does not provide certainty for the years to follow nor has it been adjusted with inflation or the increase of enrolment. The budget should not be balanced on the backs of students and it is important to invest in post-secondary as it is a catalyst and a hub for innovation.”
Benjie Mataya, a second-year political science student, states “It was already difficult to afford post-secondary education and now with the latest cut to operational funds, tuition will increase even more than previously announced, making it harder to acquire a post-secondary education.”