Volume 8, Number 14 April 6, 2001

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Budget’s 3.5% for university grants disappoints U of S

U of S President Peter MacKinnon says while the provincial government will spend substantially more this year on schools, highways, and high-technology, it left critical "re-investment" in universities out of the 2001-02 budget unveiled in the Legislature March 30.

"I am disappointed in the budget. At a time when there is a very substantial increase in spending, it appears that the universities are low on the radar screen," MacKinnon said shortly after Finance Minister Eric Cline delivered the budget speech.

MacKinnon said that compared with the 10-per-cent increase in grants for K-12 schools and other increases for Health and Highways, the 3.5-per-cent operating grant increase to universities "is very modest indeed".

"There is not in this budget the re-investment in university education that I would have liked to see."

MacKinnon did note that he appreciates the specific, targeted funding increases of $625,000 million for computer science at the U of S, $1.32 million for the higher number of third- and fourth-year nursing students expected, $2.5 million for a new virtual electronic "Campus Saskatchewan" and technology-enhanced learning, and $500,000 for merit scholarships for top high-school students entering university.

"We appreciate the Merit Scholarship Fund, which allows us to augment fundraising for scholarships with matching grants from the province," the U of S President said.

"These special envelopes are helpful – but the most important part of our budget is the operating grant, and in the context of this year’s increase in public expenditures, the grant to the University is disappointing."

MacKinnon told reporters a shortfall in grants to the U of S may have to be made up through higher student tuition fees.

He said any additional monies for the U of S coming from calculation of the recently adopted Saskatchewan Universities Funding Adjustment – stemming from the Desrosiers Report on how to properly split university funding between the U of S and University of Regina – is not yet known.

It is expected there will be some additional funding for the U of S by this summer, when that Adjustment grant is calculated.

The government announced it will grant $625,000 to each of the U of S and U of R and $250,000 to the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science & Technology for a total $1.5-million increase in funding for Computer Science at the three institutions. It will create about 250 new seats to train information technology professionals.

Finance Minister Cline also announced the province’s universities, SIAST, regional colleges, and other institutions have agreed to work together to develop "Campus Saskatchewan", a virtual campus with online learning opportunities and easier credit transfer among institutions.

"This budget will create a virtual Saskatchewan Campus to provide one-stop, web-based access to post-secondary courses and programs," Cline said.

The budget also states there will be "professional development and instructional design support for faculty who are producing online courses or using them in their teaching."

The total to be spent on post-secondary education in 2001-02 will be $511.5 million, or just over eight per cent of the government’s total spending of $6.3 billion.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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