Red Deer Polytechnic will receive less operational funding from the province for the 2022-23 academic year. (Contributed photo).

Red Deer Polytechnic will receive less operational funding from the province for the 2022-23 academic year. (Contributed photo).

Red Deer Polytechnic must address a drop in operational funding from province

RDP’s budget to be approved in June

Red Deer Polytechnic will see a 6.4 per cent cut to its operating grant from the province for the 2022-23 academic year.

It means $2.7 million less in funding as the post-secondary prepares its own budget.

“As per our normal practices and timelines, we are in the planning stages for Red Deer Polytechnic’s 2022/2023 budget. No decisions have been made at this time. We will inform our students, employees and community of our future budget plans in the coming months. The institution’s budget will be approved in June 2022,” said interim president Jim Brinkhurst in a statement.

But he said the polytechnic is optimistic for the future as it reviews the provincial budget.

“With a growing and diverse program mix, we believe we are well-positioned to access new funding announced for post-secondary institutions. This will help us increase access to post-secondary education, as we continue to provide high-quality, applied learning opportunities for our students and support the needs of industry and our communities,” Brinkhurst said.

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The Alberta Students’ Executive Council, which represents students from 17 post-secondary institutions across Alberta, said it did not see the $600-million increase to post-secondary funding the system needs.

“This year there was a slight increase in the aggregate Campus Alberta (operational) Grant, but we’re hearing from around the province that some institutions are seeing cuts. Others are remaining at zero per cent. Others may be seeing a slight increase,” said Jonathan Bilodeau, the council’s executive director.

He said most of the extra funding went to targeted programs, like investments in Indigenous learners’ supports and continued mental health funding, which is great, but post-secondaries have been through three years of significant funding cuts.

“We are concerned about the sustainability of the system and the ability of the system to really be prepared for this huge cohort of high school students who are supposed to enter post-secondary. Plus we have a large number of workers that are looking to reskill and retrain and reenter the workforce,” Bilodeau said.

Savannah Snow, president of the Students’ Association of Red Deer Polytechnic, said the UCP allows institutions to increase tuition an average of seven per cent across all programs so some Red Deer students will see a hike in tuition.

“Some programs aren’t seeing any increases at all. Some are seeing the full seven per cent. Some are even going up as high as 10 per cent,” Snow said.

She said tuition increases will partially address the reduction in operational funding, but cuts to the grant usually results in frontline service cuts for students. The students’ association has tried its best to maintain those services, like taking on the peer tutoring program in recent years.

She agreed that the polytechnic was well-positioned to receive different types of funding from the province. Advanced Education is also putting more money into existing scholarships and is introducing a new batch of scholarships for low-income students.

“The only concern I have with that is the minister has said he wants it to go to young students right out of high school. That really excludes a large demographic of older students that are going to be coming back to re-educate or skill upgrade,” Snow said.

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NDP Advanced Education critic David Eggen said he didn’t know how many more years of cuts Red Deer can take without compromising the integrity of the polytechnic.

“Besides cutting 6.4 per cent, inflation is at least four per cent so really this is a very significant cut once again to Red Deer Polytechnic. We want young people to go on to advanced education, and we want people to know the door is open to retraining. Red Deer Polytechnic is very well positioned to do that, but not if they’re being cut off at the knees by these operating cuts, coupled with significant increases in tuition,” Eggen said.

“Let’s not forget (RDP) just started as a polytechnic, and then to end up with four budgets of cuts in a row, that’s very counterproductive.”



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

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