By Nick Kuhl on February 29, 2020.
The University of Lethbridge will be laying off employees and
increasing tuition and student fees to cope with provincial funding
The final butcher’s bill for funding cuts to the University of
Lethbridge resulting from Thursday’s provincial budget will be 6.6
per cent, or about $7 million, this year, confirmed U of L president
and vice-chancellor Mike Mahon during a press briefing on Friday
Mahon also confirmed this total, combined with a total of 3.2 per
cent, about $3.4 million, already cut out of the university’s budget
last fall, means the U of L will take a 9.8 per cent total provincial
funding cut, or just over $10 million, in an 18-month period.
Mahon said the province has also been signalling its intent to cut
around five per cent more to the Campus Alberta Grant fund province-
wide next year and the same amount again the year after. He said this
really leaves the U of L with little choice but to enact
“significant” layoffs at the institution.
“We certainly have some work ahead of us to reconcile the reductions
indicated to us by the provincial government,” Mahon confirmed. “We
will have to do some work reframing, and that will come in the form of
looking to retirements for individuals but also we will have layoffs.
“You can’t reduce your budget by almost 10 per cent in 18 months
and not have to look at reducing your work force overall.”
In addition, Mahon said the university’s board of governors has also
approved a seven per cent increase in tuition fees on average per
course this year and a five per cent increase in student fees on
average per course this year to try to offset some of the provincial
There will also be substantially less funding to support student
mental health on campus, he confirmed.
“We’re trying to reduce the impact programmatically on students,
but one of the areas in reduction is the (provincial) funding we
receive for student mental health. That has been decreased by a fairly
substantial amount, about $350,000.”
Mahon said there will also likely be some consequences to programming
just because the university will have fewer employees on site to
administer and support it.
“When you are reducing your workforce, part of what you are focused
on is how do we ensure the needs of students are taken into account
related to that workforce management. And that’s part of the
consideration right now.”
Mahon said the university will find a way to get through these
difficult cuts in the best way it can and will be even more robustly
seeking out new external funding sources going forward.
“The University of Lethbridge is a terrific university with a great
future,” stated Mahon. “Part of what we will have to do as an
institution is look from a transformational perspective at how we do
our business with a different funding landscape. So looking at
maximizing other funding sources, including looking to fundraising,
looking to partnerships outside of the university — looking at how we
recruit our international students. These are all things we are
already looking at, but this (provincial cut) certainly gives us
motivation to go further to look at external funding sources.”
“This is a challenge before us,” he acknowledged, “but I am very
optimistic that as an institution we will find a way forward and
continue to evolve as an academic institution.”