Provincial budget cuts impact hundreds of jobs at Alberta post-secondary schools

Budget Blues: Blair Howes, president of the SAIT Academic Faculty Association (SAFA), sits in his office at SAIT in Calgary on Feb. 28. Howes is worried after SAIT’s decision to eliminate 230 employees. (Photo by Dharampreet Dhillon/The Press)

SAIT and the University of Calgary have been deeply impacted by more cuts to the operating cost of post-secondary institutions and the new performance-based funding model.

Following the provincial budget revealed on Feb. 27, SAIT announced 230 positions would be eliminated. Some positions are vacancies that will not be filled and others impact temporary and casual contract-based employees.

“All of this together is going to affect how institutions will be able to provide quality post-secondary education to students,” said Sadiya Nazir, Vice-President External of the University of Calgary Students’ Union.

According to Nazir, the student union put out a statement sharing their concern about the job cuts and announcing that they will have an in-person meeting with the finance minister soon. The University of Calgary’s Students’ Union wants to talk about the things that need to be protected, such as mental health funding and more money for students who cannot afford post-secondary education.

As a result of less funding from the government, University of Calgary student Japnoor Kharbanda said there may be increases in university fees.

“It is expected that there will be a lot of people who … might not enrol after this increase,” said Kharbanda.

Dr. Ed McCauley, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calgary, spoke about the implications of the budget in a teleconference.

“The University of Calgary will be trying to use all levers to grow our revenues through partnerships and things like that, and try to minimize the impact of these cuts on our student experience and the impact that we have to our research and teaching,” he said.

At SAIT, reductions of permanent employees who are members of the Alberta Union Of Provincial Employees (AUPE) will begin in early April. For SAIT Academic Faculty Association members, reductions will begin in late April.

“It’s terrible news no matter how it shakes out. It is definitely based on the provincial government’s budgets and how the funding happens at SAIT,” said Blair Howes, President of SAIT Academic Faculty Association (SAFA).

“This is hard for our institution — losing people who are passionate about student success is never easy. As a result of funding reductions, we have been forced to make some tough decisions,” said Chris Gerritsen, a SAIT spokesperson, in a statement.

Gerritsen says that these staff reductions are accompanied by spending cuts in other areas, such as capital spending and administrative support.

“I think Alberta is in a really tough situation right now,” said Ryan Morstad, President of the SAIT Students’ Association. “The government is trying to do the best with limited resources, so we’re all struggling through this together.”

SAIT students also recently received an email regarding the tuition fee increase.

This is hard for our institution — losing people who are passionate about student success is never easy. As a result of funding reductions, we have been forced to make some tough decisions – Chris Gerritsen

Two new student fees are being introduced.

The $100 Student Technology Fee will support improvements to cybersecurity to protect student and institutional information, and provide students with access to learning material outside the classroom and technology to enhance the student experience.

The $100 Student Support Fee supports student services and resources to help students succeed throughout their academic careers.