Paying more for less at Saskatchewan universities

Brigid McNutt
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The fall semester of school for university students has started. Welcome week is over, which means it’s time for full lectures and homework assignments. Give it a few weeks and midterms will have crept up like they always do. Yes, the semester-long, sleep-deprived student state will settle in any time now.

With all of the recent back-to-school chatter, I’ve been reminded of an email I received from the School of Journalism, outlining the sub-inflation increases, or essentially the cuts in funding from the government that Saskatchewan’s universities are facing. Around the same time, I received an email announcing the classes in my program that have been cut.

Back in May, the University of Saskatchewan announced it will need to cut $9 million to $13.5 million each year until 2015 to stay out of an estimated $44.5 million debt if it carried on with normal operations. This year, the University of Regina only received a 1.86 per cent operating budget increase, paired with a four to nine per cent tuition fee hike. This created a $4 million funding gap, resulting in a significant cut to department budgets, and the need for students to help make up the difference and dish out even more for their education. This isn’t happening just in Saskatchewan, but in universities across the country.

These issues were talked about earlier this year, but now that students are back in school, the effects are being felt. As classes are cut, students lose the ability to pick and take a diversity of classes. Yet, they are paying more, making post-secondary education even less accessible.

Interesting, I think, considering the province is experiencing record revenues. Let’s think about the areas in which we are growing, and the areas that are getting left behind. Interested in the liberal arts? Cutting programs means Saskatchewan’s youth will increasingly have to move to get the degrees they want, driving them out of the province.

Students are paying more and getting less. It’s not only bad news for current students, but for alumni as well. As a result of slashed academic programs and cutting corners to save money, degrees lose their prestige as the quality of education declines.

We often hear about our prosperous province moving forward. Yet, what message is being sent to Saskatchewan’s youth and the up-and-comers educating themselves to contribute to the province’s workforce in the future? Let’s continue to talk about this issue as we start the new school year.

Organizations: School of Journalism, University of Saskatchewan, University of Regina

Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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