March 22, 2023

GSA Response to The Alberta Government Budget

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G’day y’all! AC here with an update concerning the recent Provincial Budget.  

The 2023 provincial budget was released by the Alberta Government on Feb. 28th and approved by Legislature on March 14th. The budget aims to offer affordability support for Post-Secondary Institutions (PSI) by way of some increases to PSI funding, grants, and student loan programs over the next year, as well as a promise of a 2% cap on domestic tuition for future years, from 2024 (tuition regulation – Bill 10 – has passed its 1st reading through the Legislature so far). See our previous post for more details.  

While we appreciate the increases to student-forward projects, and programs that improve education access, it is important to consider this budget in context.

In Alberta, we’ve seen:  

A staggering $659 million of PSE operational funding cut since 2019 

Since 2019, the provincial government has cut public funding to PSIs to the order of $659 million across the province (adjusted for inflation). Together, the budget cuts and tuition hikes have increased the University of Calgary’s reliance on tuition as a revenue source covering now 21.5% of our total operating budget. All the while, our total operating budget has declined by $130 million since 2019 (in 2023 dollars). (See our full response for data tables and citations) 

Increased financial strain leading to a detrimental decrease in student mental health, program quality and available student support 

Yearly tuition and fee increases coupled with increased cost of living and stagnant graduate student funding have clearly left graduate students struggle to afford basic life necessities such as food, housing, and education. This stress is even more severe for international students who bear a sharper increase in tuition and fees while having no access to government loans and grants. Meanwhile, to balance its reduced operating budget, the University of Calgary has had to reduce its support staff. This has included cuts to academic staff (e.g., program administrators, lab technicians, etc.), technical staff (e.g., IT), and facilities teams (e.g., Caretaking). Students therefore have increasingly shouldered the burden of reduced program quality as a result. 

With these two contexts in mind, the PSE funding that the Alberta government is offering is NOT ENOUGH to mitigate the problem of affordability for students.  

As we have heard loud and clear from UCalgary graduate students that we need further improvements to PSE funding in order to ensure adequate quality and sustainability of graduate students in Alberta: 

  • Restore the Campus Alberta Grant funding to improve graduate funding packages, restore the support staff lost, and to prevent further increases to tuition rates; 
  • Invest in upfront, non-repayable, and needs-based grants and scholarships to offset the financial stress contributing to the mental health crisis facing Albertan students; 
  • Introduce Tuition-Parity legislation to regulate fees for international students; 
  • Improve student consultation in PSE related decisions and budgets.  

The GSA Advocacy team consistently shares the concerns of graduate students and demands these changes with government officials.  

Join us and help us amplify graduate student concerns and demand support! 

Get LOUD at the provincial election coming up at the end of May 

We plan to continue improving public awareness of these issues facing post-secondary students, with our colleagues in the Students’ Union, the Graduate Labour Union, and with other organizations in Alberta. One such effort is the upcoming Student Day of Action, March 27th at noon, outside of the TFDL, bring friends! More info about the SU Day of Action here. To stay up to date upcoming events and initiatives, and to get involved in collective advocacy efforts going forward I’ll invite you to join our advocacy engagement mailing list here

Talk to your peers about affordability in your program and identify common ground among your networks! 

At the end of the day, our efforts are each amplified by the number of colleagues we have engaged and communicating about them with our peers and our circles. Graduate students continue to face the difficult challenge of increasing costs and largely flat funding packages, but together, we can change this. I encourage you to spark a conversation with your peers about the state of affordability in your program, and identify common ground among your network.  

In Solidarity, 

AC, GSA VP External 

The above response is a short version that aims to capture the important points. Please view the full GSA Budget Response here with more numbers and information detailing our rationales, action plans, and advocacy work being done. 

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