Red Deer College saw its operational funding reduced by $1.2 million, or 2.4 per cent, in Thursday’s provincial budget, but some other post-secondary institutions experienced even bigger cuts.
Overall provincial funding for post-secondaries was cut by five per cent, but reductions varied for each institution.
“I think that speaks to how they haven’t taken a universal, or broad brush approach, to this. There’s a sensitivity that each institution has particular challenges and budget considerations,” said Red Deer College president Peter Nunoda.
RDC’s operations budget for 2019-20 is $101 million, and the school will receive $48.9 million from the province. In 2018-19, RDC got $50.1 million.
The province also froze infrastructure maintenance funding to post-secondaries for one year, which is a loss of about $2.1 million to RDC.
“We will be working over the next month to identify potential cost savings that we can make, but more importantly, to identify new revenue streams we can take advantage of,” Nunoda said.
He said attracting more international students is one way to address the funding gap. But at no point would international students displace domestic students.
“We are funded to support education for our domestic population, so that’s the first and foremost priority.
“And we will do our utmost not to reduce any kind of student services despite the challenges, because I think students have to be our No. 1 priority.”
In 2020, the province will eliminate the current tuition freeze. Over the next three years, tuition can increase to a maximum average of seven per cent per year.
In the fourth year, increases will be determined by the Consumer Price Index.
Tuition at RDC has ranged from $3,200 and $7,900 per year, depending on the program and courses. A seven per cent increase means a student would pay $225 to $555 more, or an average of about $390.
Nunoda said the college has one of the lowest tuitions for like-sized institutions with similar programs, and that should continue, since most institutions will likely take advantage of the seven per cent maximum increase.
The tuition hike will apply to new students coming into the system in 2020.
“Students who are already in a program would pay the tuition that they had anticipated from the beginning of the program.”
But in collaborative degree programs, Nunoda did not know how the cost of University of Alberta or Calgary tuition for the third or fourth years could change.
Brittany Lausen, president of the Student’s Association of Red Deer College, said although tuition will increase, her group is thankful for the predictability that comes with a tuition cap.
“(The increase in tuition) is significantly higher than what the Consumer Price Index is estimated to be, but we’re grateful it will go back down after three years,” Lausen said.
Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides also wants to maintain student support, she said. “He was very clear with us that these budget cuts are to have as little effect on student supports as possible, which is encouraging to hear.”