UCP promise $41M to SAIT after cutting $71M

The Alberta government recently announced $41 million in capital funding for SAIT, yet they cut $71 million in operational funding during their first 2 years in power.

Yesterday, the Alberta government announced funding toward a new Centre of Excellence, as part of SAIT’s culinary programme.

The Calgary-based technical institute will receive $41 million over 3 years to redevelop the John Ware Building, through upgrading mechanical and electrical equipment, developing the Centre of Excellence, and developing new flexible programming space.

Apparently, the changes will allow SAIT to increase their student capacity by 150 students.

According to the 2022–2023 budget released in February, $8 million will be allocated to the project this year, followed by $16 million in each of the subsequent two years.

The announcement included a statement from Demetrios Nicolaides, Alberta’s advanced education minister.

The renewal of SAIT’s John Ware Building creates new opportunities for students, improves access to programs and increases the functionality and utilization of learning spaces, all of which is critical for student success.

I found it interesting that Nicolaides considers this funding will improve access to programmes.

According to their 2020-2021 annual report, SAIT received $105.59 million in operating grants from the provincial government. The year before, they had received $146.97 million. That’s a drop of $41.38 million.

Plus, they went from $13.02 million in apprentice technical training grants in 2019–2020 to $7.67 million last year, a loss of $5.35 million.

That’s a combined loss of $46.73 million in programme funding.

And that’s just last year. The UCP government cut operational funding the year before, too.

Here, take a look at this.

2018–2019*$158.55 million$13.66 million$172.21 million
2019–2020$146.97 million$13.02 million$159.99 million
2020–2021$105.59 million$7.67 million$113.26 million
Change-$52.96 million-$5.99 million-$58.95 million
* Last year of NDP administration

So, after their first two years in power, the UCP cut operational and apprentice funding to the combined tune of nearly $60 million.

And that’s just based on the changes from year to year. If we compare losses in both years to what funding would have looked like if it had been frozen, it would’ve been a loss of $64.54 million in operational grants and $6.63 million. That’s over $71 million that SAIT has missed out on.

Plus, we’re not even considering enrollment growth or inflationary costs.

Not only that, but the 2021–2022 annual report isn’t out yet, so the cut to programme funding might be even higher.

It’s great that the culinary programme will have an updated building, especially since the exterior was renovated 4 years ago. But it’s a bit of a stretch to say that this funding will improve programme access when you’ve cut programme funding by more in just 1 year than you plan to provide in capital funding over 3 years.

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By Kim Siever

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

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