U of A chair defends proposed cuts

Doug Goss says he welcomes province's plan to call in consultants to balance budget; Advanced Education minister approves plan to run $45 million deficit.

University is considering cuts to arts and science faculties

The chair of the University of Alberta’s board of directors is defending the institution’s financial planning, saying it has done the best it can with the situation it is in.

"There seems to be some kind of notion that there is a bunch of money washing around here," said Doug Goss.

In the past few days, the University has proposed cuts to arts programs and science enrolment, after the spring’s provincial budget cut post-secondary operating grants by nearly seven per cent.

This week, Advanced Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk  approved the university’s plan to run a $45 million deficit this year. However, he said independant consultants will be brought in to help the U of A reach a balanced budget by 2015, adding that carrying the deficit is not sustainable.

"We have to make sure that none of our institutions keep on projecting long-term deficits year after year after year. Because at the end of the day, that is debt," Lukaszuk said.

"What is the point of having budgets if you are projecting that you are going to live outside of the budget?"

Goss said the university was hit hard by the cuts and that before the budget, they had been told they would see increased funding.

"We were in the eleventh hour of budget planning and a week later we get hit with a $70 million differential between what we were planning and what the reality was," he said.

"This institution is run extremely well … we don’t have $70 million just kicking around to balance a budget."

Goss said he welcomes consultants going through the university’s spending, but doesn’t think they will see the situation differently.

"I think it's going to be helpful more for the government. I'm hopeful that they'll come up with some really great ideas, but I'm really confident that we've got a great administrative team here. We've looked at every angle. "

With files from CBC's Lydia Neufeld