The 2019-2020 budget sees decreased funding for scholarships on top of rising tuition prices now and into the future.
Finance Minister Donna Harpauer delivered the provincial budget in Regina today, and with it, the final chapter in her three-year plan to balance the budget. Though the province is back in the black, the budget brings cuts to advanced education and funds for scholarships.
“The Right Balance” budget for Saskatchewan will see decreased funding for student support services and $1 million less for universities, federated and affiliated colleges than last year’s $470 million. The amount given directly to the University of Saskatchewan is still mostly unknown.
The Advanced Education budget line as a whole also saw a decrease of around $1 million to a total of $728 million. Direct financial support for students also had cuts, with the funds for scholarships going down by 42 per cent in comparison to the 2018-2019 budget.
With the decrease in funding allocated to scholarships, the Saskatchewan Advantage Scholarship will now be issued based on financial need as a way of targeting those who need it most. Prior to this, the scholarship allocated up to $500 to all grade 12 graduates in Saskatchewan who attend post-secondary education in the province.
For other sources of financial aid, the student loan program will be allocated $4.7 million more than last year. Although, the number of students the fund will be divided by has also increased. However, up-front grants and the Graduate Retention Program saw no changes.
It’s still unknown how much of the $469 million fund allocated to the universities and colleges in the province will go to the University of Saskatchewan. Although, some of the grant will be devoted to the College of Medicine.
The College of Medicine will be receiving $88 million, which is around the same amount as last year. The university forecast was hoping for an increase of $6.9 million to last year’s funds to be used for various initiatives, including a Postgraduate Medical Education and the development and research of Indigenous health curriculum.
The U of S is also receiving $5 million to partially restore the $20 million in funding for their operating grant in 2015-2016; this restoration is now halfway complete after receiving the same amount in the 2018 budget.
The restoration of the funds withheld in 2015-2016 was the priority ask in the U of S Operations Forecast 2019-20. Although the 2019-2020 budget says that it is committed to a “continued restoration of $5 million in funding,” it will remain unclear if the funds will be completely restored until the 2021-2022 budget is released.
The university forecast also aimed to receive funds in support of the construction of the Health Sciences Building and the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Water Security. They expect to receive a total of $25.7 million in 2019-2020 after “several years of constructive discussions” with the provincial government. It is still unclear whether or not the provincial government will reply to these requests.
Partial support for these construction projects might be included in the nearly $22-million budget line for capital repairs and maintenance across the post-secondary sector. Although, this line saw no change from last year.
Finally, another U of S funding priority to go unacknowledged is the call for investment into the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program. The province of Alberta is planning to withdraw in 2020 from an interprovincial agreement to share costs of the program. Without additional support, the program will be operating with a decrease of nearly $9 million to its annual funding by 2023-2024.
Additional highlights of the budget includes an $211-million increase in targeted investment to benefit Indigenous populations and a record-high provincial investment in mental-health and addiction services.
Ana Cristina Camacho / Staff Writer, Aqsa Hussain
Photo: Aqsa Hussain