Analysis by Cheryl Lu
The result of the provincial election might impact the University of Regina’s students financially - or not.
“It's difficult to predict how that is going to play out,” said Thomas Chase, provost and vice-president.
Parties running for election made their promises on reducing or cancelling university students’ tuition fees. But they are not the ones who truly get to decide what money goes where.
“Basically the government gives money to the university, but the university then decides how much tuition to charge,” said Lynn Barber, vice-president of the University of Regina Students’ Union. “The government doesn't directly affect it.”
Chase said tuition is decided by the board of governors.
“We each year through the Operations Forecast make a request to government for funding that we think is adequate for the needs of the university,” he said.
The Operations Forecast is a document that U of R submits to the ministry of advanced education every year. In the document the university explains what it’s doing and what it would like to do with the funding it requests. This year, the U of R’s Operations Forecast will be submitted in July, with a budget of most tuition rates and fees increased by 3.8 per cent, the same as the increase of the past two years.
Though more funding might not directly affect tuition, it could impact students in other ways, Chase explained. “We can always use more money. We can provide more courses for students. We can provide new programs. We can provide better space. We can provide more laboratory sections. We can do all kinds of things with additional funding,” he said.
Other promises, including reducing student loans and expanding the Graduate Retention Program, also might not affect all students financially.
“It's really interesting to see what the parties are doing based on (…)what they see students as,” said Barber. “(The) Sask Party are helping students out on the back end, (…) when they are finishing school and getting started in the province. And the NDP is really helping them when they are starting school and if they are extending their studies.”
The Graduate Retention Program allows recipients to “use $10,000 of their unused benefits toward a downpayment on their first home,” according to the Saskatchewan Party’s website. This promise would benefit graduates who are buying houses and settling down in Saskatchewan, but less so for those who have no such plan and need quick money.
“URSU is absolutely not partisan,” Barber said, “but it is really interesting to see how (the parties) view students, and it's really nice for students to be able to then think about how it affects them and what their lifestyle is within the university.”
Unlike other years, the budget of year 2016-2017 provincial budget is not yet released. So far all that’s on the table are different promises from the campaigning parties, and no one knows how the result will truly affect the university until one of the parties wins the election and produces a budget.
“It just gives us less of an idea on the follow though on the promises that they are saying right now,” Barber said. “To me, a business student, looking at a budget really helps me understand how they are actually going to fulfill these things…”
“The budget is kind of the concrete thing.”
Chase hopes the government would grant the university as much money as is fiscally possible.
“I would hope whoever wins the election and who's in government looks at the operations forecast and agrees with us that that request is a reasonable one,” he said.
With no budget released and not being sure how the university will be impacted, Chase is expecting a good result.
“Everyone in the province, no matter what their political affiliation(s) (are), realizes how important post-secondary education and research is,” he said. “I'm pretty confident we will see the outcome once the budget is announced.”