By Kalinowski, Tim on December 6, 2019.
The University of Lethbridge will very likely be increasing tuition annually during the next three years to help offset post-secondary grant cuts from the provincial government.
The actual percentage of those increases is yet to be determined, but could amount to as much as seven per cent per year, according to university officials. This information was confirmed at recent town hall discussion hosted by U of L president Mike Mahon, and verified again by The Herald on Thursday.
According to a news release posted by the university, the likely increase would be part of a slate of other cost-saving and cost-cutting measures brought in to offset the loss of $3.4 million to the Campus Alberta Grant, and the elimination of the $4.2-million Infrastructure Maintenance Program funding.
The university also anticipates further cuts to provincial grant funding in the spring 2020 budget.
“We have identified a number of strategies to address continuing grant reductions and we welcome (town hall attendees) suggestions on further areas to explore,” confirmed Mahon in statement released earlier this week.
“Some of the strategies include: increasing tuition fee revenue (increases in tuition are set at an overall maximum of seven per cent per year for the next three years, beginning in 2020-2021); increasing international student enrolment; only replacing essential employment positions; seeking new revenue opportunities; engaging in strategic workforce planning; and reviewing all operations and expenditures.”
As part of its advance preparations for potential provincial grant cuts, and to balance its 2019/20 budget in light of those cuts, Mahon also confirmed the university has already eliminated 19 academic and non-academic positions and brought in other cost-saving measures.
“To achieve balance,” stated Mahon, “a number of measures contributed, including: an increase in student enrolment (that equates to increased tuition revenue); a total of 19 positions (academic and non-academic) were eliminated; salary contingency was eliminated; general contingency was reduced ($500,000 remains); the Lifecycle Fund was reduced; and Ancillary Services increased contributions to the university.”
In response to these announcements, the Lethbridge Public Interest Research Group (LPIRG) laid the blame squarely at the feet of the Jason Kenney government.
“These (grant) cuts are unacceptable,” LPIRG said in a statement released to the media. “The increased barriers to accessing post-secondary are compounded by the impact this government has already had on jobs in our province. The government is actively working to make life harder for Albertans when it comes to accessing basic public services in every way.”
LPIRG board member Liam Devitt said likely tuition increases are yet another hardship facing local students as a result of recent provincial government decision making.
“While we are heartened that the U of L administration continues to reflect the core values of people, quality and access to education, we are also deeply concerned about the possible seven per cent tuition fee increase,” said Devitt. “Students are going to face higher fees to attend post-secondary compounded by higher interest rates for loans, and fewer provincial bursaries and grants. This will impact already vulnerable students and will absolutely increase barriers to many trying to access education.”
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