The University of Alberta is now facing an additional budget shortfall of $10 million, on top of the $59 million the institution has been struggling to cope with, Provost Carl Amrhein said Thursday.
"There's a pretty uniform reaction, this is unfortunate," said Amrhein.
The shortfall is connected to provincial money supplied to post-secondary insitutions for increasing enrolment. It was money university officials counted on, and now they must find strategies to cope, he said.
"One is to approach the ministry for a transition program, another would be to reduce enrolments to match the funding available," Amrhein said. "There's many options in between that we'll be talking to the ministry about tonight."
The U of A had earlier proposed a series of measures, including unpaid leave for staff, raising base tuitions in professional faculties, and a new "Common Space Security and Sustainability" fee of up to $570 per student, to try to balance the books.
The new financial blow may end up costing jobs, Amrhein said, but it was too early to say whether or in which departments that might occur.
"This is a $10-million issue that we're working to deal with. However, if you take the big picture, Alberta is still in my view the best jurisdiction in North America in which to be involved in the university business," said Amrhein, arguing that other areas had seen more severe cutbacks, and once provincial natural gas revenues recover "everything will be fine."
Province still committed to more students
Advanced Education and Technology Minister Doug Horner said the province hasn't backed off on its commitment to increasing post-secondary enrolment.
"Let's be clear here, base operating grants for all of the post-secondary institutions in the province were [maintained]," Horner said Thursday. "And that's an increase of 42 per cent over the last six years."
"We're still crunching numbers, both with the University of Alberta and with a lot of the post-secondaries around the province. You know our goal is to maintain access and to maintain quality."
NAIT's funding also hit
The Northern Alberta institute of Technology is also facing a larger-than-expected budget crunch. An internal memo obtained by the CBC shows a $9.7 million drop in government funding.
The bulk of the shortfall, $5.3 million, shows up as a reduction in funding for day programs. But the apprenticeship program is also hit hard — losing almost $3.6 million.
"It's shocking," said Geoff Tate, president of the students' union at NAIT. "Most of these institutions, especially NAIT, plan for a two per cent decrease, worst case scenario.
"This just means all their cost-saving measures and revenue-making they have to go back to the table, basically, and revamp everything, just because of the dollars that aren't there."