Faculty unsatisfied by Alberta budget

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The University of Calgary Faculty Association (TUCFA) are not fans of the province’s new budget. For TUCFA president Paul Rogers, the 2014–15 Alberta budget does little to fix the damage caused by $147 million in cuts last year.

“I think it’s a very disappointing budget for the vast majority of students in post-secondary education,” Rogers said. “There remains very significant concerns as to the quality of student experience given this government’s unwillingness to live up to its promises.”

The new budget, announced on March 6, allocates $2.1 billion to post-secondary in 2014–15, a 5.5 per cent increase from last year. Out of this money, $234 million is set aside for scholarships and bursaries and $408 million for student loans. There is also $32.5 million in new operational funding.

The $32.5 million will create 2,000 new enrolment spaces for students province-wide. Rogers said that while the new funds will improve access, current students will not reap the benefits.

“While it improves access to post-secondary education — and recognizing that Alberta has the lowest participation rate of any jurisdiction in Canada is good — it does nothing to impact the 160,000 or so full-time equivalent students who are currently in the system,” Rogers said. “They were significantly damaged by the huge cuts of last year. There’s absolutely nothing in this budget to improve things for them.”

The Alberta Heritage Scholarship Fund will receive an extra $200 million. This money is for apprenticeship programs and financial aid for students enrolled in them.

Rogers said technical schools may receive most of the funding for new student spaces.

“Looking at the new money for scholarships that they created with those shifting endowments, all of that is for apprenticeships,” Rogers said. “A worry is that how many of these 2,000 spaces might go to the polytechnics to mirror that.”

The Alberta government has not said which schools will receive new spaces for students.