Tuition hikes and budget cuts expected 

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A caricature of Jeff Keshen, President of the University of Regina, who stands in the Classroom Building hallway on campus. The hallway behind him burns and the caption at the bottom reads ‘This is fine.’
Students are getting gouged by high tuition costs. Illustration by Michaela Aguilar, manipulated by Lee Lim

Money makes the university go round

The provincial budget was released two weeks ago, and included no funding increases for universities in the province despite a year of rampant inflation. The University of Regina’s projections for the 2023-2024 year involve a 4 per cent tuition increase and a 5 per cent budget reduction. 

Prior to the release of the budget, the university has had a number of difficult financial years. The pandemic brought financial difficulties to the university through decreasing enrollment, especially of international students. As a result, the University of Regina signed a memorandum of understanding with the Provincial government which agreed to keep funding the same between 2021-2022 to 2024-2025, so the lack of increase in funding from the province was expected.  

While many at the university were anticipating no additional support from the province, Britt Hall, president of the University of Regina Faculty Association (URFA), a union representing faculty at the U of R and associated colleges, said she “hoped that they would recognize that a 0 per cent increase in times of inflationary pressures of upwards of 6 or 7 per cent is a 6 or 7 per cent cut.” The president of the U of R told Global News on March 22 “there has been some challenges [sic], but I am really pleased with the trajectory.”  

The neighbouring University of Saskatchewan released a statement about the provincial budget, calling it “predictable, stable support,” which allows universities to “better plan and forecast.” 

While the memorandum of understanding did not give any funding increases, it did give the U of R about $5.5 million in each of the first two years of the agreement to help with the university’s COVID recovery. Going into the third year, the funding will not be continued in this year’s budget. Based on the budget letter sent to the university, the U of R is set to receive $112 million in total operation funding from the province for the 2023-2024 year. Student tuition is forecast to generate about $109 million in revenue of operating income for the 2023-2024 year, according to the university’s operations forecast from July 2022. Comparatively, the Federal government is budgeted to provide $2.6 million to the operating fund. 

The provincial budget also provides additional funding to the university for specific projects, such as funding for French language programs, building maintenance, and expanding the nursing program. The funding outside of operational funding is an additional approximately $8 million.  

Overall, provincial funding was just under 50 per cent of university revenue in the 2022-2023 year. This proportion has been on a steady decline since at least the 2009-2010 year when it was just over 60 per cent of university revenue. Subsequently, tuition revenue has filled most of that gap.  

Saskatchewan is projected to run an approximately $1 billion surplus. While post-secondary funding has not increased, education funding in other areas has risen 6.2 per cent. In contrast, the U of R is expected to run an operating fund deficit of approximately $5 million in the 2023-2024 year, based on projections made in June of 2022.  

Trent Wotherspoon, the New Democratic Party chair of public accounts in the legislative assembly, said that the government missed “A real opportunity with this budget.” Wotherspoon went on to say the budgetary decisions will have a “big impact on the University of Regina.” In the 2022-2023 budgetary year, the U of R had an unexpectedly high shortfall. Admissions unexpectedly dropped rather than grew, leaving the admissions revenue $9.4 million lower than expected, and operating costs were $3.4 million over projected revenue causing a surprise $12.8 million dollar deficit by December 2022 rather than the anticipated $3.4 million deficit. A budget discussion released by the university on December 7 called the situation “significantly worse than what was originally anticipated.” 

To increase revenue, the university has “three initiatives that have been designed to increase international enrolments,” as stated in the operations forecast. It also states that the U of R is expecting increased enrolment both domestic and foreign in the upcoming year, as enrolments increase post-pandemic.  

In a personal correspondence, the president’s office confirmed “international student enrolment is up 17 per cent this semester.” The office explained that this marks “an all-time high” of first-year international student enrollment. 

In the 2021-2022 budget year, a base budget reduction of 3 per cent was enacted. Further spending decreases have also been considered due to several years of deficits in the university budget. A letter sent to the units at the university on January 27 about the yearly budget said it is “clear that we must be ready for hard decisions in the development of the 2023-24 budget.” The university’s letter also asked units to outline what the impacts of a 5-7 per cent decrease in their budgets would look like.  

It isn’t just faculties losing money. A March 16 presentation by the university stated that there is an estimated 4 per cent increase in tuition costs for the 2023-2024 year, the maximum amount that tuition can be raised under their current agreement with the province. While URFA is hoping to prevent budget cuts, Hall said “We don’t want to see these budgetary pressures be solved on the backs of students.” So, URFA is “calling on the provincial government to support the universities.” The March 16 presentation also seemed to settle on a 5 per cent base budget reduction, with anticipated further reduction of 3 per cent and 2 per cent in the next two years respectively. The potential losses of faculty positions due to decreasing budget is hoped to be achieved through attrition and early retirement. 

The president of URFA also pointed to the possibility that “the number of sessional or contract instructors will likely decrease.” Hall went on to explain that this will have an effect on permanent staff, since it will “increase their workload.” Faculty attrition and retirement can also disproportionately affect smaller departments, who already have a small number of faculty.  

Hall said “one of the things that we’re hearing from some of our members in smaller departments is concerns about the viability of those small departments if we continue to be unable to refresh and bring people in.” Some small faculties, like the School of Journalism, are already down to two core faculty members. The president’s office said they “do not anticipate significant impact on program offerings or student services.” Though, Hall thinks budgetary cuts should concern students, because “our working conditions are your learning conditions.” 

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1 comment

  1. Voices raised on tuition raze - The Carillon 15 June, 2023 at 10:15

    […] In an article for the Carillon published on April 6, 2023, news writer Josh King interviewed Britt Hall, President of the University of Regina Faculty Association (URFA) on the announced cuts. Hall encouraged students to stay up-to-date on and involved with the budget for many reasons, but explained why undercompensated and overworked faculty should be a concern to students: “…our [faculty’s] working conditions are your learning conditions.”   […]

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