The University of Alberta has pulled its proposed internal budget back eight days before it was scheduled to receive final approval.
David Turpin, U of A president, announced the retraction of the university’s proposed budget on March 5 through a statement. On February 27, the United Conservative Party-led provincial government tabled Budget 2020 which froze student financial aid funding levels and made further reductions to university funding. Cuts were applied differentially, with the U of A receiving an 11 per cent cut — after receiving a 6.9 per cent cut in Budget 2019. The two cuts translate to a loss of $110.3 million for the U of A.
The U of A planned for a five per cent cut in its proposed budget. Now that it is facing a greater cut, Turpin said the institution had to rescind its proposed budget to better account for the changes to funding.
Turpin added the reduction is “serious” and will have “far-reaching” impacts on the U of A.
“We have a major challenge ahead of us,” he said. “We recognize there are many difficult decisions to come — our commitment to high-quality education and research must remain our priority.”
The previously proposed consolidated budget, which was approved by the Board Finance Property Committee and set to receive final approval on March 13 by the Board of Governors, forecasted an approximately $14.5 million deficit for 2019-20. Last year, the U of A forecasted an $11.5 million surplus for 2019-20. To compare, in 2018-19, the U of A had around a $103 million surplus. Additionally, the previous budget included residence rate, tuition, and meal plan increases.
Budget cycle to be redone by university to still meet March 31 deadline to submit to province
The revised budget will be presented to the Board of Governors on March 23 for final approval — eight days before the provincial government’s deadline for submission.
“Provost Steven Dew, vice-president Gitta Kulczycki, and I are working closely with the other members of the senior leadership team and deans to address these significant reductions,” Turpin said.
He added in his statement that prior to the board meeting the university will host a budget town hall for anyone to attend. No date was given as of publication.
Students’ Union hopes frontline services and quality of education will be preserved in new budget
Akanksha Bhatnagar, president of the Students’ Union, said she was surprised to see the U of A pull its budget back and restart both the consultation and governance cycle.
“I actually think it’s incredible that they pulled it because it means that they are actually going to be going back to the university body to get consultation,” she said. “It just means we will be able to provide feedback.”
She added that so far no one at the Students’ Union has seen a revised budget or heard any news about what will change between the two.
“I am looking forward… to see the reallocations,” Bhatnagar said.
Bhatnagar predicted “deeper cuts” and more deficit years to come for the university.
“The U of A got one of — if not the — deepest cut it has ever gotten,” she said. “It does mean we will need to make some difficult choices.”
She said the Students’ Union will be pushing to ensure student quality of education and frontline services like safe disclosure offices and mental health resources will remain untouched by any potential further reductions in funding.
Response planned by Students’ Union in form of educational session and protest to Board of Governors
Additionally, she said the Students’ Union is planning two events to educate students and allow students to voice their frustration to the Board of Governors — the highest decision making body at the U of A.
On March 12 at noon, the Students’ Union is hosting a general information session to educate students on the effects of Budget 2020 on post-secondary, how the U of A will be affected, and what students can do in response.
Bhatnagar said on the following day that the Students’ Union is hosting a silent protest at the Board of Governors meeting. Originally, the U of A budget was to be presented and voted upon here for final approval. Bhatnagar said despite the budget being pulled back, students can show university administration exactly how they feel about the effects the budget will have on them.
“This is the perfect time to show the U of A and the Board of Governors just exactly how you feel,” she said. “Although it is a silent protest, by showing up in numbers we can display exactly how united we are about the impact cuts have on us at the U of A.”