Lower income university graduates will no longer receive graduate retention cheques from the provincial government.

The province is changing its program aimed at keeping graduates in Saskatchewan from a refundable tax credit to a non-refundable tax credit.

Previously, graduates would receive their credit as a reduction on their income taxes. If the credit exceeded the tax bill, government would send a cheque for the difference.

Now, the credit can only be received as an income tax reduction. Any rebate that can't be collected in one tax year can be applied to the next year.

The program is giving graduates more time to try to collect their rebates. They now have 10 years instead of the previous seven.

The deferral is expected to save the province $33.5 million this year.

Following the announcement of the changes, University of Regina student Paige Kreutzwieser said she is rethinking her plans for when she graduates.

"It was really a positive thing for me as a student to want to stay here because of that and now it's really frustrating," Kreutzwieser, who is a third-year journalism student, said. "It hasn't changed much, but it just changes my plans."

She added the change to a tax credit, instead of a cheque, is significant.

"It's nice to get a cheque in the mail," she said. "The government gave me money that they promised they were going to give me and we're not going to be getting that now. So it's just going to be a different game plan for, I think, a lot of people who built their future on staying here because of that."

Grants to post secondary institutions

Saskatchewan Polytechnic is receiving a two per cent increase. The province's universities and colleges will receive a 1 per cent bump in base funding, half what they received the previous year.

That could leave students paying more for their education.

For instance, the University of Saskatchewan received a two per cent increase last year, and ended up hiking tuition an average of 4.5 per cent.

"It's gonna be a tough year for the province and it'll be a tough year for the University of Regina," Vianne Timmons, president of the U of R said Wednesday.

Timmons added she is a "big fan" of the graduate retention program and believes it has led to students remaining in Saskatchewan after their studies.

"We'll watch that carefully," she said.

When asked about the change in how the program is done, Timmons noted students will still benefit although in a different way.

"They'll see it on their income tax, which is kinda like a sneaky cheque," she said. "They will still see it."

Timmons said she will have to eliminate jobs at the university because she will be short $3 million on her next budget.

"We'll have to cut positions," she said.