Colleges and universities learn the extent of cuts to government grants

Bow Valley College in Calgary and Edmonton’s MacEwan University were hit hardest by a cut to provincial operating grants announced in Thursday’s budget. 

Post-secondary institutions being pushed to admit more students, charge higher tuitions

Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides has seen his ministry's grants to post-secondary institutions cut by 5 per cent. (Genevieve Tardif/CBC )

Bow Valley College in Calgary and Edmonton's MacEwan University were hit hardest by cuts to provincial operating grants announced in Thursday's budget. 

Advanced Education is cutting the overall grant program by five per cent. That translates into cuts to grants ranging up to 7.9 per cent. Advanced Education said it based the reductions on each institution's annual operating surplus and its ability to sustain the cuts. 

MacEwan and Bow Valley College each face a 7.9-per-cent cut. In a written statement, MacEwan University said action will have to be taken immediately as the $9.1-million reduction is retroactive to April 1, 2019.

"This is one of the largest in-year cuts in our institution's history," MacEwan said in a written statement.

"The reduction in our grant presents a significant challenge for the university, and there will be implications across the institution."

Grants to Alberta's two largest universities were reduced by 6.9 per cent. That translates into a $44.2-million cut to the University of Alberta and a $32.9-million reduction to the operating grant for the University of Calgary. 

"This is a significant cut," said Ed McCauley, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Calgary. 

The Alberta government also cut all funding for the Infrastructure Maintenance Program. That means a loss of $22 million for the University of Calgary. In an internal memo, Mount Royal University president Tim Rahilly said the loss to the institution will be $3.6 million, in addition to the $1.3-million cut to the operating grant. 

The province is lifting the freeze on tuition, but increases will be capped at seven per cent a year. 

The Alberta government wants post-secondary institutions to rely less on government grants and collect more in tuition by raising fees and admitting more students, and by finding alternative funding sources. 

The grant to Lakeland College, which has campuses in Vermilion and Lloydminster, will be reduced by 7.2 per cent, or $2.5 million. 

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology is facing a 5.5-per-cent cut, or $8.5 million.

Six of Alberta's 26 colleges and universities aren't receiving any cuts to their grant funding: Medicine Hat College, Ambrose University, Burman University, Concordia University of Edmonton, St. Mary's University and the King's University. 

The remaining institutions are facing cuts to their grants that range from 1.1 per cent to 3.6 per cent.

The Alberta government has said it plans to implement a new funding formula in time for the 2020-21 school year.

With files from the CBC's Helen Pike