The University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union’s goal is to ensure that education remains accessible and impactful to all people wanting to attend the University of Saskatchewan, and that all current undergraduate students can attain their degrees with minimum financial hardship. In order for these objectives to be realised, current and future students depend upon a level of predictability that the most recent provincial budget has not allowed.
This March, the University of Saskatchewan saw the province deliver the largest budget cut in our history – 5.6%, or $25m of our provincial funding was cut. Additionally, $20m of University funding is now required to go towards the College of Medicine, effectively increasing the cut to 11% of our operating grant. The provincial tax credit for tuition expenses was eliminated; a move that the government says will save them $28.2m, but will come directly out of the pockets of students. Finally, the Saskatchewan Advantage Grant for Education Savings (SAGES), which supported parents choosing to invest in their child’s education, has been discontinued until further notice.
The effects that these cuts will have on this University is not yet fully known; administration is working on minimizing the long-term impact, and we will be involved in ensuring this process is conducted thoughtfully. However, it is unrealistic to deny that these cuts will have a detrimental effect on our ability to excel in our fields, and the ability of young people across this province to access post-secondary education. As noted in a recent survey by StatsCan, Saskatchewan has the lowest rate of low-income youth attendance of post-secondary education in Canada. Rather than promoting a campus that fosters inclusion and diversity, we are concerned that the provincial government solely recognizes the University as a liability.
For the vast majority of students who have attended the University of Saskatchewan, the value of our education has been made clear from our first day. We have managed to create and foster a culture of diversity, of solidarity, and of success. The President of the University, Peter Stoicheff, has said that these cuts will not define us, and in order for his statement to hold true, due attention must be paid to the voices of students, because we understand better than anyone what is at stake.
The USSU calls upon the government, and our allies across the province, to support our vision of this University not as a liability, but as an investment into our future. Beginning in September, this University’s Students’ Union will be engaged in intense consultation with our constituents and will provide a list of recommendations that will take into account the diverse views and opinions across this campus.
In the meantime, the USSU asks that the Province and University administration work diligently on reducing the costs of post-secondary education in order to ensure that post-secondary education remains accessible to the needs of the province.