Red Deer College announced it will be cutting staff and suspending programs as a result of a 7.3 per cent funding cut by the provincial government.

The cut, which translates to roughly $6 million, came after $147 million was removed from post-secondary operating grants in the last provincial budget.

The college says 32 people will lose their jobs, and individuals from all employee groups — administration, faculty and staff — have been impacted.

"This has been a difficult time and Red Deer College will be different because of these changes," says Shelley Ralston, the college's board of governors chair, in a release.

The school is also suspending several programs:

  • Automotive Service Certificate
  • Health Care Aide Certificate (On Campus Delivery)
  • Hospitality and Tourism Management Certificate and Diploma
  • Pharmacy Technician Certificate (Distance Delivery) 

The college also announced it will be suspending the Virtual Assistant Certificate Early Learning and Child Care Diploma in 2014, but students in the Early Learning and Child Care Certificate Program will be able to continue their diploma in the coming year.

Union says 65 positions cut

But the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees says 65 employees across the campus are losing their jobs with union staff "taking the largest hit" at 34 employees.

"This is a major blow to staff, students and the community alike," says AUPE vice president Jason Heistad in a release.

"Taking $6 million out of post-secondary in Red Deer means taking $6 million out of the local economy."

The union says the areas most impacted by the cuts include information technology support, library services, student advising and recruitment.

"The blow to recruiting and advising is huge," Heistad says.

"It means fewer students learning about the advantages not only of the college but the entire community of Red Deer. And it means fewer people to help students design a program of study that can ensure their success upon graduation."

Red Deer College is a major employer in the region, with AUPE representing about 300 support employees at the campus.

Other institutions feel the pinch

Red Deer isn't the only post-secondary institution in Alberta making deep cuts.

Mount Royal University in Calgary plans to suspend diploma and certificate programs and lay off staff to deal with a $14-million shortfall.

Athabasca University, which is located north of Edmonton, says it is laying off 44 people.  

The University of Calgary is reportedly facing a $113-million deficit over the next four years, but plans to cut programs or staff have not been announced so far.

But Alberta's Minister of Advanced Education Thomas Lukaszuk says he will have to approve changes to post-secondary programs before they are implemented.