Red Deer College has lost 192 jobs, and Olds College is down 100 jobs since the United Conservative Party took power a year ago, says the NDP.
And advanced education critic David Eggen worries more cuts are on the way.
Tuesday, Eggen said 3,538 post-secondary jobs across Alberta have been lost, which includes temporary cuts, attrition and COVID-19-related losses.
“This is certainly the largest mass layoff to the post-secondary system in a generation, and probably in the history of Alberta,” Eggen said during a press conference.
“In fact, it’s almost 10 times higher than the number of layoffs expected by the post-secondary institutions, as outlined on page 218 of the government’s fiscal plan.”
Eggen said instead of cutting, the government should be investing in the system.
“If we are sending the opposite message, it will only snowball. You’ll end up with less enrolment and the reputation of our universities will suffer.”
Eggen is also concerned about the delay in Red Deer College becoming a university, and questioned the government’s public accounts committee about RDC’s university status at a meeting Tuesday morning.
A decision on RDC’s status was expected earlier this year, but it will be delayed until after a system-wide review is done in the fall on post-secondary institutions in Alberta.
“Red Deer College was cut significantly with job losses and programs, and you need to make sure you provide the foundation for people to have the confidence to know there will be a Red Deer University on the schedule that was set out, so young people will have that option to go to Red Deer University when they finish high school.”
He said Red Deer is one of Alberta’s fastest growing cities and a university would provide greater program diversity for students.
“Young families are looking for the expectation that that university will be there for themselves and for their families when they need it.”
He said job cuts at smaller institutions such as Olds College put the operation of those facilities in jeopardy and impact communities. UCP MLAs need to stand up and fight for the colleges in their constituencies, he said.
“There’s a existential threat to many of these small colleges, just with the cuts that have been imposed so far.”
Eggen said small-town institutions are the backbone of their communities, and it’s not the end of job cuts by the UCP.
“Make no mistake, Jason Kenney and the UCP is using this deadly COVID-19 pandemic to advance their agenda of cuts to advanced education.”
The NDP renewed its call for a tuition freeze.