The University of Alberta received a shock Thursday afternoon as the provincial government announced a 6.8 per cent — $147 million — cut to the university’s base operating grant instead of last year’s promised two per cent increase.
The University of Alberta would have required a four per cent increase to the grant just to cover the cost of inflation, not including a $12 million structural deficit the university has accumulated.
Shortly after the budget was announced, U of A President Indira Samarasekera said she was horrified at the severity of the cut, which she said came without warning and will affect the institution’s quality.
“I was very surprised ... we’ve been asking for about two months, ‘Give us some numbers so we can plan,’ ” she said.
“Quite frankly, there’s going to be a very significant reduction in quality of the student experience.”
Since the U of A has already based their 2013-14 Comprehensive Institutional Plan on a presumed two per cent increase to the Campus Alberta grant, the university’s plans for the next year will now require revision.
Although Samarasekera said it’s still too early to tell how student enrollment may be affected or what types of program cuts will have to be made, the administration has already been putting plans in place.
“We intend to make the University of Alberta stronger throughout this, not weaker,” she said.
“I am going to do everything I can to ensure we come out of this a stronger, more vibrant institution, even if it means that certain services for certain kinds of students may not be there.”
Students’ Union President Colten Yamagishi said although the provincial government currently supports the tuition cap, students will still be affected and will face uncertainty regarding mandatory non-instructional fees and market modifiers.
“This is going to be huge not only for the institution, but for students,” he said.
“I want to make sure that all the major stakeholders are kept to appropriate concerns with this conversation, so that means students, staff, faculty, non-academic staff and of course the administration.”
More information to come in The Gateway’s March 13 issue.