Last month, the University of Lethbridge presented their 2021–2022 budget to the public during a virtual town hall.
One of the first things Nancy Walker, vice president of finance and administration, pointed out was this chart.
In it, we see that since the 2019–2020 budget year, the provincial operating grant funding for the university has been cut 3 times:
- $3.7 million in 2019–2020
- $7.1 million in 2020–2021
- $5.7 million in 2021-2022
All 3 of those cuts have taken place while the UCP have been in power and collectively total $16.2 million in lost revenue for the university.
On top of that, the U of L received no additional operating funding for the running of the new Science Commons building, which opened in September 2019. The province told the university that it would have to absorb the increased operational costs with their existing revenues.
Not only is the amount received from the province dropping overall, but so is the amount per student. After all, if funding drops while enrolment increases, it’s going to affect the grant dollars per student.
However, not only has the grant dollars per student declined with every budget the UCP government has released, but also it’s now at its lowest level in at least a decade.
And less funding per student means that, on average, each student will have a worse educational experience.
First, the operating grant makes up a large portion of operating revenue for the University of Lethbridge. Even after the UCP government took away nearly $4 million from the U of L in 2019–2020, the grant still accounted for 64.4% of their total operating revenue.
This year, it’ll make up only 57.7%, a drop of about 10%.
As you can see in the above graph, as the share of the operating revenue has gone down for the provincial grant, the share for “fee revenue” has increased. That includes tuition.
Fee revenue, including tuition, rose from 28.5% of operating revenue to 34.4%. That’s a 20% increase.
As far as actual dollars, the U of L took in $47 million in tuition and fees in 2019–2020. They expect that to increase to $55.3 million this year, a jump of over $8 million.
So, the operating grant cuts make the average student’s education worse by making it more expensive.
In her presentation, Walker said that even with the tuition increases, the University of Lethbridge still “has the lowest tuition fees in the province for a comprehensive academic university”.
Second, for every $10 the university spends, more than $8 of it ends up going to salaries and benefits.
That means that any reduction in revenue—especially if it’s $16.2 million must result in job cuts. Either that or lower pay and benefits. Or even both.
Among all those employed by the university, over three quarters are faculty and support staff. Faculty comprise 53% of the employees and support staff account for 25%. Cutting jobs are going to affect the people teaching the classes, as well as those supporting the student experience.
In her presentation, Walker outlined that over the last 2 years, the university has cut 20 faculty positions and 85 non-academic positions, reducing their workforce by just less than 10%.
This can lead to larger class sizes, less individualized help from instructors, longer wait times for services (such as advising and registration), and so on.
To balance last year’s budget, according to Walker, the university had to use $3.1 million in one-time funding. That money isn’t available again this year.
If they want to balance the budget again for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, they must come up with nearly $4.5 million, and that’s after planned tuition increases.
You can watch the full town hall presentation here.