Universities and students brace for Alberta budget cuts
Some post-secondary institutions in Alberta are taking drastic measures in advance of potential cuts that will be announced by the provincial government on March 7.
A $6 billion shortfall coming from dwindling oil revenues, and a repeated vow from the premier not to raise taxes, means that many sectors that receive funding from the Alberta government are bracing for the impact of the budget announcement.
Post-secondary institutions in Alberta were promised an operating grant increase of two per cent, and some now expect that promise might go unfulfilled.
David Beharry, with MacEwan University, said the school has taken preemptive action by freezing hires for academic and non-academic staff.
"We announced yesterday a hiring freeze," he told CBC News Saturday.
"We aren't certain about the funding, so basically we are placing things on hold until we find out what the funding model will be."
Deb Hammacher, with the University of Alberta, said administrators there aren't laying out possible budget solutions if the cut is implemented, but are planning for every possibility.
"We remain hopeful. It's a time to make strategic decisions and make any adjustments more strategically rather than across the board," Hammacher said.
The uncertainty means that some cash-strapped students are concerned, and frustrated.
University of Alberta student Rosalyn Barr, 22, said she is worried about the future of her education if the university gets less money than it was planning for.
"The fact that they might cut programs is scary," she said.
"You'd have less programs, you'd have more competition and then you'd have people having to pay more."
While Barr is concerned for her own ability to continue her education, she said she also understands everyone may have to share in Alberta's financial burden.
"It's going to affect various qualities of life for doctors and nurses and teachers that kind of stuff. It's not just the university. It's obviously affecting more than just one thing," she said.
With files from the CBC's Travis Dhanraj