The UCP government’s 2021 Alberta budget will have devastating consequences for post-secondary education across Alberta and seriously hamper the province’s post-pandemic economic recovery. Of particular concern to the AASUA is the impact this budget will have on the University of Alberta, its staff, its students, and its ability to properly fulfil its mission on behalf of the people of Edmonton and Alberta.
Province-wide, the size of the cut to the Campus Alberta Grant for the coming fiscal year will be anywhere from $126 million to $175 million (it is difficult to pinpoint the actual number in the Alberta budget documents). Regardless of the specific amount, what is clear is that the government is cutting far deeper than it had originally forecast. This, combined with the cuts in the two previous budgets, brings the total cut to government funding of post-secondary operations to between 15% and 20%, or approximately $500 million, since the UCP came into power.
As was the case in the past two budgets, the University of Alberta is shouldering a disproportionate share of the cuts. Depending on which number you use, our university’s share is anywhere from one-third to one-half of the total cut, which is entirely inconsistent with our relative size in the province. Regardless of whether the U of A is being targeted because of some funding formula that the province is refusing to disclose, or whether it is politically and ideologically motivated, it is entirely inappropriate to single out Alberta’s flagship university in this way.
The bottom line is that the U of A will have to make due with $60 million less in operational funding in the coming year than it did the year before, a cut of 11%. The University based the U of A for Tomorrow restructuring, and the institutional budget for 2021-2022, on the assumption that the cut to its Campus Alberta Grant would be $53 million this year and the next. In other words, the University will have to, in short order, find a way to cut an extra $7 million from its operating budget for the coming year on top of the cuts it has already planned for. We don’t know yet where these “extra savings” will be found, but recent experience suggests that front-line support, facilities, IT, and maintenance staff will bear the brunt.
Over the next weeks and months, the AASUA will continue to advocate on behalf of its members, as well as the entire U of A community, to the provincial government. We will work to remind the UCP that the research, innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship required to move Alberta forward is simply not possible without a thriving post-secondary education system, and that includes a stably funded and supported University of Alberta. We will also work hard to remind Edmontonians and Albertans of the positive contribution our members and our university make to the success and well-being of our communities, city, and province.
I hope you will keep your eyes open for opportunities to take action and share information, and join us in doing the hard work ahead.