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New postsec funding in Southern Alberta after years of UCP cuts

The Alberta government recently announced over $5.3M for 3 Southern Alberta postsecondary institutions, but that comes after they cut over $34M in operational funding from the U of L, LC, and MHC.

Last week, the Alberta government announced $5.3 million in funding for 3 postsecondary institutions in Southern Alberta

According to the announcement, the money will be distributed as follows:

  • University of Lethbridge: $3.7 million
  • Lethbridge College: $1.2 million
  • Medicine Hat College: $324,000

The funding is part of the Alberta at Work initiative, a targeted enrolment expansion program that funds high-demand programs to meet labour demands.

In other words, the government gets to choose which programmes need funding, rather than giving the institutions the funds then let faculties decide which ones to fund.

The announcement says that the funding will be directed at 6 programmes. Although it didn’t specify the exact programmes, it did indicate that they would be in the fields of agriculture, health care, science, and IT.

This is a good thing, right? Shouldn’t we be celebrating an increase of over $5 million into postsecondary funding.

Well, sure, $5.2 million is certainly better than $0. But there’s something you should know about the relationship between these institutions and the UCP government.

For example, the U of L reported in their 2021/22–2023/24 Consolidated Budget that the UCP government had cut their operating grant by 5.8%, which amounted to $5.7 million.

And that’s just last year.

In a February 2020 statement, Mike Mahon, the U of L’s president claimed that the university was to lose 6.6% in the previous school year ($7 million), and that they lost 3.2% (or $3.4 million) as a result of the UCP’s firs budget.

Plus, earlier this year, the University of Lethbridge informed Lethbridge News Now that they would have a further 5.1% cut as a result of the most recent provincial budget. That works out to $4.8 million.

Now, just to make it easier for you, the reader, this means that the UCP have cut $20.9 million from the University of Lethbridge’s operating budget over the last 4 provincial budgets.

And as a result of all those budget cuts, the U of L have eliminated over 100 jobs, at least that was the number as of the 2021–2022 budget.

But they expect us to get excited about $3.7 million.

Remember, that’s just for the University of Lethbridge.

This year, Lethbridge College expects to lose $2.2 million of its operating funding from the provincial government, or 5.7%. It will be the fourth time the UCP government has slashed their funding. They lost $2.7 million (6.4%) last yea, about $3 million the year before, and about $2.5 million as a result of the first round of budget cuts by the UCP.

That’s a total cut of about $10.4 million over a 4-year period, nearly 5 times the amount the UCP announced they’d be providing through targeted funding.

And what about Medicine Hat College?

In 2019, the college lost $1.8 million in operational funding from the provincial government. The UCP cut about half a million in funding the second year and $340,000 the third year. This year, MHC anticipates losing about $184,000.

That adds up to over $2.86 million.

But they’re getting $0.324 million in targeted funding?

To summarize, the UCP government is giving the three postsecondary schools $5.3 million in targeted funding, but after 4 consecutive years of cuts totalling about $34.2 million.

So while it’s great that these institutions are going to get $5.3 million over the next 3 years, that amounts to 15.5% of the funding that the UCP took away from the university and colleges.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news stories, focusing on politics and labour.

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