January 20th, 2021

U of L, Lethbridge College preparing to take a budget hit

By Kalinowski, Tim on February 28, 2020.

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald


Both of Lethbridge’s post-secondary institutions will take an enormous hit when new cuts announced in Thursday’s provincial budget set in.

“We know it’s a very difficult budget for us,” said Mike Mahon, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Lethbridge. “It is a significant reduction regarding our base funding from the Province of Alberta. We have been, of course, planning for reductions, but the significance of this is going to impact our institution quite substantially.”

“A reduction of funding of this magnitude means we have to make some considerable changes,” agreed Lethbridge College president and CEO Paula Burns. “And there will be changes across the system. We don’t have exact numbers yet, and we need to actually get those to do the detailed work.”

The province said it will cut post-secondary base funding grants by as much as five per cent, or maybe even higher, to post-secondary institutions this year.

Whether three or five, said Mahon, these types of base-funding cuts will likely mean job losses at the university.

“We are going to have to make some very difficult decisions. We have been making those decisions already since the last reduction (in September). Those decisions are a range of things from reducing funding to specific programs to unfortunately having to address our workforce in relation to layoffs.”

Burns said Lethbridge College is not anticipating any program cuts, but will likely have to address any funding shortfalls through attrition within the school’s workforce, or even possibly layoffs.

“I can’t answer that yet, but we do know there will likely be retirements, and through attrition we’ll probably have fewer people in the workforce. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to have layoffs at this point – we’re unsure of that.”

On top of across-the-board cuts to post-secondary institutional funding, the government will also be employing new metrics to determine if the province’s post-secondary institutions are generating measurable results like having students entering the workforce within two years of graduation. The results-based approach could see post-secondary institutions who score lower on this and other measures targeted for further grant-funding reductions going forward.

Burns said Lethbridge College is not concerned about these measures.

“Those are measures that have been collected for a number of years,” she said, “and we do well in terms of having programs that meet employer needs. We have good employer satisfaction and we also have good graduate satisfaction. That’s part of our mandate to ensure we produce graduates that are meeting the needs of the local economy, so we feel pretty good about the measures at this point.”

Mahon did not have enough information yet to know one way or another how such measures may affect the university going forward.

“The performance metrics are still a work in progress,” he said. “We have seen some drafts, but we actually have a meeting next week with the province to get some more clarity. But what we have seen thus far is the metrics will range from enrolment, both domestic and international, to employment measures such as the percentage of students employed two years after graduation, to things like income (for those students). For us, as a research university, they will also look at things like research revenue. A high priority from the province is for us to develop more sources of what they call ‘own-source’ revenue, or increases to own-source revenue. That measure would be looking for things like greater tuition for domestic and international students and things like fundraised dollars and revenue from research grants.”

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UCP taking two excellent postsecondary institutions who punch way beyond their weight class and forcing them into mediocrity. Money saved will be thrown away on trying to micromanage the economy from one government office.