author: taylor balfour | news writer
5.5 per cent decrease in prov. spending for university
The Saskatchewan budget has been the talk of the town in Regina this past week, with many residents of the province openly stating their anger about the decisions being made by the provincial government.
What will affect students the most is detailed in the Student Affairs email written by Vianne Timmons, president of the University of Regina, sent to the student body on March 23 detailing how exactly the budget cuts will change campus life.
“The budget included a five per cent reduction to our university’s operating grant for the coming year, which amounts to a cut of approximately $5.4 million. This follows the $1.66 million mid-year reduction in funding for the current fiscal year that the Province announced in Nov. 2016. Unfortunately, there are also other targeted reductions to university funding totalling $813,000,” the email states.
“These include cutting more than $476,000 from the Saskatchewan Innovation and Opportunity Scholarship, which is a 38 per cent reduction in funding for student financial support that directly improves the affordability and accessibility of post-secondary education for our students.”
The total amount of these cuts are equal to 5.5 per cent, meaning $6.2 million has been removed from the university’s funding. The money that has been cut was intended for “operating, debt service and student financial assistance.”
Shawna North, vice-president of the education sector for the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union, helped to explain what this means for students.
“Regardless of what program you are enrolled in, a cut of this amount will force students to pay more for their education now and in the longer term,” she explains.
“It’s not just a direct financial impact, as the number of campus services available and their quality will be reduced. Simply put, students will be paying more and getting less.”
“There are multiple negative financial impacts on students,” North explains.
“The cuts to scholarships and student aid will make it that much harder to afford for those enrolled in classes and the elimination of the Saskatchewan Advantage Grant for Education Savings means that parents saving for their child’s education are going to be paying more when their child starts post-secondary education. Discounting income tax credits for education and tuition expenses means that if students were transferring some of this credit to their parents or spouse, that is no longer an option.”
Branching off of this, Vianne Timmons’ email stated that this is “obviously disappointing” and that “more critically, the cuts ignore the affordability challenges facing students and neglect the significant economic and social benefits of post-secondary education.”
However, it is important for current students to keep their eye out for issues such as this and to be made aware of how budget changes can affect them and their education.
“For those currently enrolled, these decisions directly impact the quality of the education they receive. It also impacts the cost and ultimately their ability to complete their education if the cost becomes too prohibitive,” North continues.
“Having to defer or delay because of lack of public support for programs and scholarships means it will be that much longer for them to carry the debt incurred to get their degree or diploma.”
The budget cuts could lead to even worse.
“If a program they have enrolled in is cancelled due to lack of funding, they will be forced to go elsewhere to complete their education. Understanding the direct impact of the government budget on each individual student will help them to make a better informed decision at election time.”
Another indirect effect on students is the cuts taken to public libraries in the province. The municipal library systems around the province have had their $1.3 million operant grant revoked. Libraries, their spaces, and their communities, remain as a great host for varying classes and support programs such as “ESL classes and early childhood literacy programs,” as Global News claims.
“Since 2009, our campus enrolment has grown 25 per cent to a record number of nearly 15,000 students,” Timmons’ email claims.
“We are graduating more people than ever before – more women, more Indigenous students, more Canadian students from outside our province, and more international students. Research demonstrates that, on average, our graduates experience lower unemployment and earn more money throughout their lifetimes than those with a high school diploma,” said Timmons.
“Funding cuts like this mean that layoffs will be coming to workers in post-secondary institutions,” North warns.
“Those left to continue have to do more with less, causing overwork and all the stresses that go along with that. So students and those who provide their education will be paying for the poor financial decisions made by the Saskatchewan Party.”
Budget cuts, especially ones this drastic, will affect everyone either indirectly or not. However, there is always hope.
“Our highest priority during this process will be to try to minimize the impact these budget cuts will have on our students. Although I am frustrated by today’s budget, I am also confident we can adapt and innovate to meet the challenges it presents and help our students and our citizens build a better future,” Timmons assures.
“Our university community has confronted obstacles before. The ingenuity of our students, faculty, staff and alumni community knows no bounds, and I know that we will pull together and successfully adapt to the changing fiscal landscape in Saskatchewan.”
While the budget will have negative effects on everyone in the province, there is always a way to move forward.
“Beyond our economic impact, the University is also at the forefront of developing solutions for major social problems, such as the impoverished and unequal conditions faced by many of our Indigenous populations,” Timmons stated.
A setback will not deter university staff from working their hardest and from continuing to do the best that they can given grim circumstances. However, Timmons said it best.
“By failing to invest in our post-secondary system, Saskatchewan risks foregoing these benefits and eroding the economic health of our province.”