Volunteers from the Coalition for Action on Post-Secondary Education (CAPSE) were stationed at Cameron and Rutherford libraries last Wednesday, collecting letters from students about their reactions to funding cuts and drawing attention to the negative impact of these cuts on students.
Students were invited to write personal messages to Thomas Lukaszuk, Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education, and U of A President Indira Samarasakera, while also learning about the current and future implications of the cuts for the province and members of the university community.
“Minister Thomas Lukaszuk says he hasn’t been hearing from students, so this is students’ chance to speak up,” volunteer Micah Cooper said.
In March, funding to Alberta’s post-secondary sector was slashed by $147 million, forcing the U of A to unexpectedly cut millions of dollars from their budget. The institution already had a pre-existing structural deficit before the government’s cuts were announced, leaving the U of A scrambling to cut $84 million in expenditures to balance its budget within two years.
While many U of A students are frustrated by the cuts, several were also confused about the ways cuts will impact their programs. Students voiced concern that, although they hadn’t yet seen programs cut, they fear for the future of U of A students, and many participants said they were frustrated by the lack of communication between administration and students.
Science student Lydia Fong said she’s particularly worried that the potential for lab fees and higher competitive averages for the Faculty of Science means education will be less accessible.
“It just causes so much stress. I’m worried for my program,” she said.
Brett Lambert, a support staff member for the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, who said he was recently laid off, spoke to volunteers and students at the event.
Lambert said he was concerned about how losing support staff will influence the quality of education. He also reminded students of the concrete effects cuts are having, as many individuals lose jobs.
Cuts are being felt in tangible ways, particularly for students in the arts, who have seen classes, professors and program admissions undergo suspensions in order to meet budget demands.
“I’ve had to take an extra term just so I can take one class to finish my degree,” one student said — a circumstance echoed by many others who have felt strains in their own programs.
But it’s not just the arts that have been hit, organizers reminded students. The science faculty faces a steep $6.9 million cut, and students in the engineering faculty have lost a number of professors as the university tries to accommodate the budget they were given for the 2013–14 fiscal year.
Participants expressed a common sentiment that the province doesn’t value students. Many conveyed disappointment in the direction the province is heading towards and said they were upset that funding is being directed towards industry rather than education.
Business student Victoria Gereluk voiced concern that, by not investing in education, the progress of the province is being hindered.
“It’s counterproductive to growing an economy,” she said. “You need an education to work, but the quality of education goes down when funding is cut.”
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