PC government funding cuts hit Olds College

Olds College will cut 25 jobs in the midst of provincial post-secondary funding cuts.

Olds College will cut 25 jobs in the midst of provincial post-secondary funding cuts.

On Friday, the college announced a surplus budget which is mandated within board policy. The total budget is $50.2 million, and with expenses of $49.3 million, the modest surplus for 2013-14 comes in at $893,000.

Jason Dewling, vice-president of academics and research, said the surplus is used for any capital renewal projects, such as painting, new equipment or supplies. There is no capital dollars built within the operating budget, he added.

“We didn’t come at the (surplus) from one angle,” said Dewling on Friday. “We looked at revenue generation and resource alignment.”

The Progressive Conservative government announced in March that it would cut base operating grants to post-secondary institutions by 7.3 per cent. Institutions were expecting a two per cent increase in funding, so the decrease is being translated into 9.3 per cent for them.

“Dealing with a reduction in funds like this one doesn’t happen in a 60-day window,” said college president Tom Thompson in a news release.

Olds College suffered a loss of $3.6 million in provincial dollars.

Staffing was cut by 10, of which 1.5 were permanent faculty members. The college also did not fill 15 vacancies while being committed to increasing revenues and cutting administrative expenses. Management staff, including Thompson, took a three per cent rollback.

“Before doing anything to impact students, over the last year we’ve been making significant changes,” said Dewling. “So we had about 12 reviews throughout the organization, both academic and service, to help us.”

The staff cuts affected all levels at the college, he added.

“There were positions we didn’t fill or held back because there were signals through last fall and in early 2013 that we should be cautious,” said Dewling. “Only about 10 people are directly impacted over the next few months. The other 15 positions saw jobs amalgamated, realigned or combined with another position.”

Guy Smith, president of Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, said the whole community will feel these job losses.

AUPE represents 170 full and part-time support staff at the college. Of the positions cut, 10 are in the AUPE bargaining unit.

“Eliminating these jobs takes a lot of money out of the Olds economy,” said Smith. “Add to that the 65 job losses at Red Deer College and you see how these education cutbacks affect the region.”

Besides reducing its staff, the college had four other budget highlights: improved access to learning; sharpened focus on institutes and centres of excellence; substantive increases in revenue; and results-based reviews.

The National Brewmaster program will start in 2013-14, plus 81 more apprenticeship seats are coming. Olds College will add Hospitality and Tourism certificates and diplomas, which means 60 more spaces. It will also offer Grant MacEwan University’s bachelor of science degrees.

Olds College also has a Fashion Institute within Calgary’s Bow Valley College south campus.

It hopes to bring in an additional $1.5 million through new entrepreneurial and enterprise efforts. New revenue accounted for about 50 per cent of bridging the budget gap.

Reviews of each division at the college will continue.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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