The provincial government has released, in part, its new budget. As it stands, the government appears not to be making any meaningful changes to post-secondary funding from the previous year.
Due to the uncertain situation surrounding the outbreak of COVID-19, the government only tabled the province’s expenditures for 2020-21 on Wednesday afternoon. The release of the forecasted revenue for the period has been postponed to a later date.
While the 2019-20 budget was notable for being balanced after the province’s years in the red, Minister of Finance Donna Harpauer says that this year might see a return to debt.
“We may have to make adjustments to address the economic fallout caused by this pandemic,” Harpauer said in a statement. “We fully recognize that this may mean a deficit.”
On the side of increases, this year’s estimates include a hike in spending for the Ministry of Health.
“This funds the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who today are on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19, while at the same time meeting all the other health needs of Saskatchewan residents,” Harpauer wrote.
On the other hand, Advanced Education spending is staying mostly the same. The Central Management and Services line, which covers executive direction for the advanced education sector, is seeing a small decrease of $0.6 million. The Post-Secondary Education line is going up by $12.2 million, with universities, federated and affiliated colleges getting an increase in funding of less than one per cent.
While these estimates are a continuation of the recent trend of flat funding for post-secondary institutions in the province, they are in line with what the University of Saskatchewan asked of the province in their Budget Request 2020/2021.
“Our request for 2020/21 is for government to maintain stable funding … for our institution,” the request reads. “While the additional funding we require to maintain our status quo operations is $17.4 million over 2019/20 funding, with stable operating and capital funding, we will endeavor to achieve a growth agenda with priorities that can and will benefit Saskatchewan.”
Funds for Student Supports, however, are only going up marginally by 1.9 per cent, with the sub-category of Scholarships remaining the same after being cut by 42 per cent in 2019-20. Student leaders at the time criticized the budget for making these cuts.
“I think that a budget balanced on the backs of students is not a balanced budget,” said Brent Kobes, former U of S Students’ Union vice-president of operations and finance, in an interview with the Sheaf in 2019. “‘The Right Balance’ would have included having continued support for students through scholarships.”
Ana Cristina Camacho | News Editor
Photo: Aqsa Hussain