'We're prepared for it': U of S faces down another year of flat provincial funding

The president of the University of Saskatchewan says this year's provincial budget did not come as a surprise.

President Peter Stoicheff says spending exceeds zero per cent increase

University of Saskatchewan President Peter Stoicheff says the university is prepared for a zero per cent increase from the province in 2019. (CBC News)

The president of the University of Saskatchewan says this year's provincial budget did not come as a surprise.

In this week's budget, all post-secondary institutions were given $728 million in operating grants—exactly the same as last year. The University of Saskatchewan was also given $5 million in response to a $20 million cut to the university's budget that was made in 2015.

As the province has been public about its commitment to balance its budget by this year, university President Peter Stoicheff said it wasn't a surprise that money stayed relatively flat.

 "We're prepared for it," said Stoicheff. "But it puts a lot of pressure on an institution. We have to do things differently."

Pressures include a potential strike of roughly 1900 university support workers as well as rising tuition rates. While tuition rates for 2019 have not been released yet, tuition rose by 4.8 per cent last year.

"I'm always saying to the institution that one that is well-run should be able to withstand these sorts of situations," he said. "But you can't forever."

However, Stoicheff made it clear that tuition increases are not tied to provincial funding.

"We are nowhere near being in a situation where we have to sort of balance our books and remain financially sustainable on the backs of students and their tuition," he said. "We're looking at how low do we need to keep tuition to ensure accessibility on the part of as many individuals in the province as possible."

Expanding impact

The university president said the institution is continuing to innovate. It's planning to open a campus in downtown Prince Albert in the next year and a half, and putting more money into its engineering and computer science programs.

"We're not just in survival mode," he said. "We continue to think big in these situations but that demands ensuring that we know where we can have the greatest impact on the province."

Meanwhile, Stoicheff said the university will be aggressively moving forward through fundraising alumni and seeking out partnerships.

In other post-secondary news, The Saskatchewan Advantage Scholarship will be converted to a needs-based scholarship this year. Previously, the scholarship gave all new Grade 12 graduates up to $500 per year if they were enrolled in a post-secondary school.

The province will also be providing $26 million to support the student loan program, helping more than 18,000 students.