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Dru Marshall explains the cuts in the MacEwan Hall Ballroom.
Michael Grondin/the Gauntlet

Arts enrolment cut

Budget cuts target enrolment, small programs and staff

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Enrolment will be reduced at the University of Calgary as the faculties of arts, nursing and medicine will accept fewer students in the upcoming year. Provost and vice-president academic Dru Marshall announced the reductions at a budget meeting held in the MacEwan Hall Ballroom where plans to deal with the recent provincial post-secondary budget cuts were discussed. 


Starting in September, the U of C will cut enrolment in the faculty of arts by 200 students. Marshall said the decision was made on the basis that arts enrolment was considered too high by the administration.


“Arts is at an all-time high in enrolment, probably well above where they should be,” said Marshall. 


Annual enrolment in the faculty of medicine will be reduced by 15 students. The faculty of nursing will also receive a cut in enrolment of 30 students. Marshall said the drop in these faculties enrolment was planned prior to the announcement of the post-secondary budget cuts. 


Marshall said programs with low enrolment will also be cut.


“We are eliminating about 20 of what we consider low-enrolment programs,” said Marshall. “But I can say, they haven’t had anybody registered in them since about 2006. So the cost of doing this is not high. It’s more of an administrative exercise.” 


The list of programs that will be cut has not yet been released.


Marshall estimated that “four or five” bachelor of arts programs will be amalgamated into a single program, adding that these will be “general bachelor of arts programs.” She did not specify which programs will be amalgamated. 


Marshall said some arts courses will also be cut next year.


“The faulty of arts will likely lose 50 sections of courses,” said Marshall. “These sections of courses will only be in optional courses.”


In addition to this, 12 academic support staff will likely lose their jobs and fewer sessional instructors will be hired next year. 


These measures aim to reduce the U of C’s operational expenses by $27.7 million. Marshall said that while these cuts are difficult, the worst is still to come.


“While this has been difficult, the real pain is going to come next year when we have to look for another $20 to $25 million as we balance the books with increasing costs while having a stable budget of zero per cent increase.” 


U of C president Elizabeth Cannon said an additional $11.8 million was made up in contingency funds and $1.1 million in expected revenue growth so the cuts in spending did not have to be higher. 


“We are projecting through good fiscal management that we will be able to recoup another $1.1 million,” said Cannon.


The consolidated budget is expected to be balanced for the upcoming year, with expenses and revenues both at $1.15 billion. 


Students’ Union vice-president external Connor Brown had mixed feeling about the budget.


“I’m happy that the University of Calgary is in a fiscally responsible place, but it’s also sad to see that they’re cutting back enrolment in arts, especially given that arts students pay an equivalent tuition to the rest of the students at the U of C while arts expenses are generally low,” said Brown. 


The U of C board of governors must approve the budget on May 23 before it is sent to the provincial government for final approval.


Prior to the cuts, the U of C estimated that it has a $7.9 billion total economic benefit to the local economy. These cuts are expected to reduce that number by $210 million.


Marshall was troubled as to why the Alberta government would make these cuts. 


“It’s surprising that the government would cut an economic driver,” said Marshall. “But it’s probably more surprising that we would see a cut at this level in what was the fasting growing metropolis in Canada last year.” 


The U of C will receive $40.7 million less than was expected for the 2013–14 budget — a 7.8 per cent decrease in operational funding. When the cuts were announced on March 7, they came as a surprise to many, as Alberta Premiere Alison Redford had promised a two per cent increase in post-secondary education during her 2012 bid for re-election. 


After the cuts were announced, 24 Alberta post-secondary institutions received letters of expectation from the Ministry of Enterprise and Advanced Education, which outlined the government’s priorities with the cuts. The letters recommended that institutions cut programs that already exist in other Alberta schools or train students in skills that are not strongly needed in the job market.


Other Alberta post-secondary institutions have been forced to downsize due to the budget cuts. Red Deer College recently announced that 32 employees will be laid off and unspecified programs will be eliminated. The University of Alberta is expected to have layoffs next year. 


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