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Provincial budget reduces operating costs for a fourth year at U of C

By Sophia Lopez, February 28 2022,

The Alberta government, under the United Conservative Party (UCP), announced Budget 2022 on Feb. 24, which discussed the budget cuts to operating costs at the university. Over the past four years, these budget cuts have often left students paying significantly higher in tuition.

In an interview with the Gauntlet, Demetrios Nicolaides, the minister of advanced education, discussed how he believes tuition rates in Alberta continue to be affordable for students while remaining competitive and below the national average.

“One of the key things contained in budget 2022 is new funding for scholarships and student assistance,” said Nicolaides. “There’s $12 million over three years for to support existing scholarships and $15 million over three years to create new bursaries for low income students.”

David Eggen, the New Democratic Party (NDP) critic for advanced education, opposed Nicolaides’ viewpoint, stating that the provincial government has not done enough in its power to provide students with affordable education and conduct proper student consultation. 

“This UCP government has filed three budgets with deep cuts to post secondary in a row,” said Eggen. “Students are having to pay $150 million more for tuition next year –– it excludes a lot of people from being able to go to university. It really sends a negative message to Albertans in general that this government just does not respect the best education.”

While many students are disappointed with the tuition increases as a result of the budget cuts, Nicolaides wants students to understand that the province is simply attempting to reach the same level of spending as in other universities across the country. He also believes enough student consultation has been done, regardless of the budget cut protests held by students at the University of Alberta

“We still need to work towards getting our post secondary spending in line with other provinces,” said Nicolaides. “However, at the same time, we’re of course seeing and recognizing that we need to provide additional investment to our post secondary institutions to increase seats in many in-demand programs.”

Students were not directly mentioned in the Alberta throne speech delivered on Feb. 22, but rather the skill development of the province was, and Eggen believes this poorly reflects on the UCP government as students are a crucial part of the province’s future economy.  

“If you want to diversify the economy in Alberta, if you want to retain young people and attract them to this province, you do it through a commitment to advanced education, universities, colleges and polytechnics,” said Eggen. “This UCP government has done none of these things –– they talk about economic diversity and yet they cut perhaps the strongest way by which we could achieve that, which is advanced education.” 

Nicolaides, however, explained how the government is taking the proper measures and providing enough resources to ensure students are supported throughout their post-secondary education.  

“I think it’s important to remember that this is a very important investment for each individual student into their future,” said Nicolaides. “There of course has to be the right financial supports which Budget 2022 is expanding, and we are providing new scholarships, new funding and student aid that hasn’t been previously available.”

With Budget 2022 directly affecting students, Eggen encourages students to continue to voice their needs and opinions, and to hold the provincial government accountable for its decisions. 

“It’s now more than ever important for students in universities to stick together and make their voices heard,” said Eggen. “This government will think twice if they feel like they are losing support in the electoral box. Quite frankly, this UCP government does not deserve student support.”
For more information on Budget 2022, visit the Alberta website. To take a look at the University of Calgary’s response to the budget cuts, visit the U of C website.

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