Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Key spending: education

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OK, you're going to put us in a financial bind. Let's talk about taking the controls off tuition, University of Winnipeg president Lloyd Axworthy fired back at the Selinger government Tuesday.

"That is the conversation I want to have," Axworthy said.

Tuesday's budget left the University of Manitoba $7.77 million short on anticipated provincial operating grants, Red River College $6 million in deficit, and the U of W $1.5 million short. All three face substantial cuts to bring in balanced budgets for the next school year.

This was to be the third year of a government commitment to increase university operating grants by five per cent annually, but Finance Minister Stan Struthers reneged and reduced the increase to 2.5 per cent. Tuition continues to be capped at cost of living, so no room there to make up the lost cash.

"We'll be trimming to fit," U of M president David Barnard said. "We're disappointed government wasn't able to stick with five per cent."

The five per cent promise would have meant more than $15.5 million to the U of M, but instead, the school will get half that.

"It will have a very hard impact, no question," Axworthy said.

"It's a disappointment, but not a surprise," said Brandon University president Deborah Poff, who feared BU will have to abandon planned improvements.

Red River College president Stephanie Forsyth said the two per cent increase for colleges will leave RRC's budget $6 million short.

"We were definitely hoping for more, for parity with the universities," she said. Red River went through significant reductions last year, she pointed out.

Forsyth said Red River will have to ignore waiting lists, drop new programs planned to meet skill shortages, and postpone improvements indefinitely.

However, the presidents all applauded the province for still providing an increase at a time when other governments are making deep cuts to grants.

 

-- Nick Martin

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 17, 2013 B3

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