Alberta post-secondary schools no longer have to meet spending caps

Post-secondary schools are getting a bit of a break ahead of the fall semester. They no longer have to cut expenses to meet a government-enforced target.

Ministry of Advanced Education back-tracks on promised targets in light of COVID-19, complaints

Students at the University of Alberta make their way to class in this file photo. Alberta universities and colleges no longer have to meet expenditure cap targets. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

Post-secondary schools are getting a bit of a break ahead of the fall semester.

They no longer have to cut expenses to meet a government-enforced target.

The Alberta Ministry of Advanced Education decided Wednesday afternoon to scrap expenditure cap targets planned for this year, a spokesperson told CBC News.

Dan O'Donnell, vice-president of the University of Lethbridge's faculty association, welcomed the reversal.

"It's a huge relief that's gone because basically, this was a way of bankrupting universities," O'Donnell said. "There really is no other way of saying it."

The planned targets would have forced schools to cut expenditures up to a certain amount. Under the plan, any money the schools earned that they then spent would have been counted toward expenditures.

For example, if a school earned a research grant and spent that money on research, the school would then have to count that spending toward its total amount and potentially cut another department to make up the difference.

The province made the decision to backtrack on the expenditure targets after hearing complaints from institutional leadership and considering the added burden of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Laurie Chandler, press secretary for the advanced education minister.

"It would be in the best interest of our institutions — especially due to COVID and the impacts that we don't know yet in respect to enrolment and revenue, what that's going to look like — to make sure that they would be able to best manage that," she said.

In an email from the University of Calgary, a spokesperson said its leadership supports the decision and thanked Minister Demetrios Nicolaides for hearing their concerns.

Just last week, Alberta's advanced education minister said a funding model that will link Alberta post-secondary funding to performance will be delayed for at least a year.

With files from Terri Trembath, Rachel Ward


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