USFA e-letter: The SK Govt. may be making bad choices when it comes to funding for the U of S, but our University’s future is secure

Yesterday, the Provincial Government brought down its 2014-15 Budget. As Chair I want to provide you with the USFA reaction to the Budget and to the comments from President Busch-Vishniac in her Provincial Budget Announcement.

We are concerned about choices being made by the Provincial Government with respect to the way in which it allocates funding to the U of S. With a deficit predicted by Senior Administrators and the Board of Governors to be $44.5 million by 2015-16, the choice of the Provincial Government to direct funding to specific projects and initiatives is a bad choice for the University. The Government is tying the hands of U of S administration by targeting funds to particular uses. By restricting the use of government funding, it removes the autonomy of the university. It removes the flexibility necessary to use funding where it is most needed.

While a 2% increase in the operating grant is welcome, it is not enough. We have been told that the costs associated with university operations are increasing at a faster rate than increases to the operating grant. Alternative revenue sources and tuition end up being needed to offset costs. With last week’s Board decision, the average U of S tuition has increased more than 17% in the last four years. Tuition increases are making a university education for Saskatchewan students less affordable and the quality of that education is being impacted because the Provincial Government is not funding Saskatchewan Universities appropriately to maintain and grow our programs.

I also want to say that the USFA is deeply disappointed with the President’s comment questioning the security of the future of our University. The USFA is still not convinced that the structural deficit is anything more than a convenient manner for Senior Administrators and the Board to soften the resistance to institutional change through the use of fear and anxiety amongst those within the institution. This kind of comment only reinforces our view.

The U of S is a top notch institution with world renowned scholars and high quality degree programs. The USFA believes that the future of our university is secure and we will continue to work diligently on your behalf. We will continue to ask questions about choices being made by our Provincial Government and Senior Administrators.

In solidarity,

Doug Chivers, USFA Chair

Rawson Professor of Biology