In the face of cuts to its operating budget announced in the provincial budget, Portage College President and CEO Nancy Broadbent said she is confident her institution will be able to weather the storm and remain a key economic driver for Northeastern Alberta.
“Our students, faculty, staff, and managers are resilient,” said Broadbent in a press release. “We have faced challenging times before and have come through even better in many cases. I am confident we will do so again.”
As part of the Feb. 25 provincial budget, the College’s Campus Alberta Grant was cut by 4.2 per cent for 2021-22, which represents a $904,000 reduction. This is the third year in a row Portage’s operating grant has been cut, totaling $2.864 million, Portage said.
This is equivalent to 12.5 per cent, the school says.
“Although this announcement was worse than we anticipated, it is within our planning model,” said Broadbent. “Where we can, we will continue to try to buffer cuts by finding efficiencies, reducing costs and through attrition.”
Students are also carrying some of the burden.
“Student consultation went well, as students understand the position of the College,” said Broadbent. “However, even with going to the max increase of 7 per cent for tuition fees, this increase will only partially offset the $904,000 loss.”
Total revenue generated from the tuition increase is approximately $179,000.
The College recognizes that post-secondary institutions are key partners in driving economic recovery by skilling and upskilling the workforce, particularly for underrepresented populations.
Any cuts can impact participation rates of rural citizens and especially those who may already be disadvantaged by the system. For the 2021-22 year, Portage will selectively apply the tuition increase to protect the most vulnerable learners and those entering careers with lower earning potential.
The provincial budget was not all bad news.
On a positive note, funding for mental health and students with disabilities was maintained at 2020-21 levels while Portage’s Apprenticeship Technical Training Grant (ATTG) was increased by 3.2 per cent, despite pre-budget warnings that it might have been at risk.
“We look forward to increased flexibility in the programming regulations and continued support of our employer partners to increase the opportunities for journeymen in our region,” said Broadbent.
Funding through the Infrastructure Maintenance Program was also boosted. The small increase will be used to fund repair projects.
“This infrastructure funding will create an economic spin-off as materials and contracts are issued,” said Broadbent.
“We are thankful for the tremendous support from communities, students, alumni and employers in the region. We hope that we can continue to work together with all of our partners and to weather these challenging times to come out stronger as the economy recovers.”
-Portage College press release