Print
Hits: 3839

University of Regina President Vianne Timmons speaks to the media following the release of the provincial budget on Wednesday afternoon. She says the insitution will have to make some difficult decisions with an increase of only two per cent to their base operating budget this year. Photo by Brady Knight

 

Universities face budgetary challenges

By Brady Knight

 

Photo by Brady Knight. University of Regina President Vianne Timmons speaks to the media following the release of the provincial budget on Wednesday afternoon. She says the institution will have to make some difficult decisions with an increase of only two per cent to their base operating budget this year.

 

 

Post-secondary institutions across Saskatchewan will see only a two per cent increase in base operating funds for the coming year according to details in the provincial budget, released Wednesday afternoon.

 

Advanced Education Minister Rob Norris said the total budget increased 3.7 per cent this year.

 

"That does have a two per cent baseline increase for our post-secondary institutions, but then there are a variety of institutions that also then have some additional dollars," he said. "For example the University of Regina comes out with a 3.1 per cent increase actually ... nursing is one example where there's some targeted funds."

 

Those funds come in the form of $600,000 for the U of R nursing program and $150,000 for the nurse practitioner program.

 

But many believe the two per cent increase is not enough.

 

"That is not sufficient to cover the enrollment increases in universities," said Sylvain Rheaut, president of the Saskatchewan Association of University Teachers. "There are also operating costs that are increasing every year. And with a two per cent increase, the university will have to increase tuition fees to make sure they cover their budget. So it's not good news for students.

 

"If there is no tuition increase, that means probably some cuts in personnel, and some programs might have to shut down," he said.

 

Warren McCall, NDP critic for advanced education, echoed Rheaut's concerns.

 

"For students and students' families, this is going to be a pay more, get less budget," he said. "We're going to see tuition, I think, go up yet again, and I think you're going to see continued pressure on programs and staff and faculty on the campus being cut."

 

The president and vice-chancellor of the University of Regina admits the institution has a challenging year ahead. Vianne Timmons said the tight budget means tuition will go up.

 

"One of our principles is to keep our tuition accessible," she said, noting the U of R has one of the lowest average tuition rates of all English universities in Canada. However Saskatchewan led the country in tuition rate increases last year, with undergraduate tuition jumping 4.7 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.

 

"We have been successful at keeping our tuition at the bottom of the national average and we will continue to try to do so," she said.

 

Timmons added the government has invested in a number of scholarship and support programs for students, including a 28.3 per cent increase in funding for the Graduate Retention Program.

 

Despite the challenges ahead, Timmons said there would be no cuts to professors, although she said they will look at "opportunities that arise when people leave."

 

Timmons also expressed frustration at the lack of capital funding for the U of R, in a email message to the university community.

 

"I am disappointed to learn that the provincial government has not seen fit to allocate the additional $13.3 million needed to complete the new student residence project," she wrote. "In addition, no funding was provided for the College Avenue Campus Renewal project, a signature historical site of great importance to our city and our province and one that is greatly in need of rejuvenation."

 

Timmons said despite the setback, the university will continue to fight for funding next year for both projects.

 

"We're getting pretty lean – very lean as an institution. So I hope we'll see a little bit easing up on the fiscal situation," she said. "I think Saskatchewan is well positioned to be able to start investing as we go forward. And it has given us two percent operating which is an investment. So I hope it continues to increase as we go forward."