Sask. government resistant to U of Regina's calls for additional funding

The University of Regina is facing financial difficulties. (Alexander Quon/CBC  - image credit)
The University of Regina is facing financial difficulties. (Alexander Quon/CBC - image credit)

The Saskatchewan government says it is in ongoing discussions with the University of Regina, but not yet prepared to step in and provide extra funding amid a budget crunch at the institution.

"Certainly there's some issues with the University of Regina, but we're confident that the university through its president and its leadership team are going to meet … their financial challenges," said Gordon Wyant, minister of advanced education, on Thursday.

Last week, the University of Regina's Faculty Association (URFA) sounded the alarm over plans to slash budgets at the U of R, a decision that could result in cuts to staffing.

URFA represents more than 1,500 employees, including faculty, sessional lecturers, instructors, and administrative and professional staff.

URFA president Britt Hall told media Thursday that the provincial government has a role to play in resolving the potential crisis.

"Public education is under the purview of the provincial government," she said.


As CBC reported last week, the University of Regina asked its faculties and administrative units to reduce budgets by five to seven per cent.

Hall has previously said that the cuts will play out differently across the university's faculties, but that it likely means a reduction in sessional lecturers as well as decisions to not hire replacements for retiring staff, resulting in heavier workloads for those remaining.

Calls for more funding 

On Thursday, the Opposition brought URFA's concerns to the provincial legislature.

NDP MLAs spent most of Thursday's question period poking and prodding at the priorities of the provincial government, and asking whether it had plans to provide additional funding to the U of R.

"That government needs to take a look at the impacts of their decisions, and look at their current decisions, and be serious about what the situation looks like for public post secondary education in our province," said Jennifer Bowes, the NDP's advanced education critic.

Post-secondary institutions in the province are in the second year of a four-year funding agreement signed with the province in 2021.

That agreement was meant to provide stable year-over-year funding to all post-secondary institutions during the uncertainty brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. On Thursday, Wyant indicated he's not prepared to deviate from that agreement at this time.

"Certainly when the four-year funding agreement was signed, inflation wasn't where it was, and so we know that's posing some challenge to our post secondary institutions," he said.

Kirk Fraser/CBC
Kirk Fraser/CBC

The U of R's 2022 annual report found that the 2021-2022 fiscal year "posed a variety of challenges for the university," and brought with it $15.3-million deficit.

Inflation and drops in enrolment were the biggest factors creating the deficit, the report said.

Deficit potentially larger than previously known

An internal document indicates that the University of Regina's financial situation could be worse than previously reported.

The document, titled 2023-24 Budget Discussion and dated Dec. 7, 2022, indicates that the U of R's deficit may have grown to $19.6 million as of the start of this year.

While it is not a final budget document, the University of Regina has confirmed it uses the document for internal planning, though it insisted the numbers are fluid and based on a "myriad of assumptions."

The document shows enrolment continued to drop in spring and summer 2022. International enrolment dropped by 14.9 per cent and domestic enrolment dropped by 8.4 per cent, the document says.

While the drop was slightly offset by an increase to the university's tuition revenue, the document concludes that the U of R is "facing a serious budget challenge going into 2023-24."

The U of R's 2023-2024 budget is still being developed and will be considered by the school's board of governors in April.