Photo by Scott Strasser

MacKimmie redevelopment, tuition freeze backfill among post-secondary highlights of NDP budget

By Tina Shaygan, March 23 2018 —

Alberta Minister of Finance Joe Ceci presented the 2018 budget to the legislature on March 22. The $6.1-billion post-secondary budget increases post-secondary funding by two per cent, extends the tuition freeze for a fourth year and provides $7 million in scholarships for “technology and other emerging sectors.” The budget includes $17 million in backfill funding to make up for the difference caused by the extension of the tuition freeze.

The budget also includes $8 million in funding for post-secondary mental health initiatives across the province and provides $11 million for Indigenous training providers and targeted financial support for Indigenous adult learners.

Minister of Advanced Education Marlin Schmidt said the main goal of the post-secondary budget is to “continue investment in higher education.” He added that alongside the tuition freeze, the results of the tuition and fees review — which was proposed by the New Democrat Party in the fall of 2015 — would be available in the “very near future.”

“Investing in higher education is a key part of making sure we achieve our goals for economic diversification,” Schmidt said. “We want every Albertan, regardless of their situation, to be able to access higher education.”

University of Calgary president Elizabeth Cannon said in a statement that the school recognizes the government’s “commitment to post-secondary education.”

“The U of C recognizes the importance of the Government of Alberta’s funding commitment to post-secondary education,” Cannon said. “Stable and predictable funding is critical to providing access to quality education for students, enabling them to become leaders in our community.”

The budget provides $641 million for post-secondary infrastructure, which addresses the MacKimmie Complex at the U of C campus. The school will receive $262 million for the MacKimmie redevelopment starting in 2018–19.

Schmidt added that the government is also looking at compensation for university executive compensations in Alberta.

“We want the money that we spend on higher education to go to students and classrooms. That’s why we’re going to take action to reign in executive salaries in the higher education system,” Schmidt said.

Previously, the minister called university executive compensations in Alberta “out of line.” Earlier this week, Schmidt criticized University of Alberta for increasing its student fees while maintaining executive’s compensation.

“It’s concerning to me to see the president lining his own pockets while he’s cutting money being spent on classrooms and students,” Schmidt told the Edmonton Journal.

The NDP’s new budget aims to close Alberta’s deficit by 2023. According to the CBC, Alberta is expected to finish the current fiscal year with a deficit of $9.1 billion, bringing the forecasted debt to $41.7 billion.

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