U of W blames province for cuts to faculty, sports teams

U of W blames province for cuts to faculty, sports teams

The University of Winnipeg says the latest provincial budget has forced the school to cut senior positions, sports programs and a handful of faculty positions in order to achieve a balanced budget.

"It's unfortunate but we had to make some tough budget decisions," said Chris Minaker, senior executive officer with the University of Winnipeg.

On Monday evening, the University of Winnipeg's board of regents approved $3.7 million in cost cuts in the 2017-18 operating budget.

The bulk of the university's savings — approximately $1.5 million — will come from leaving vacancies unfilled.

The school is required by law to balance its budget.

The Progressive Conservative government says it respects the choices the University of Winnipeg is making.

"Manitoba faces a serious financial challenge that requires governments and publicly-funded institutions to make funding decisions to fix the finances of the province and put us on a road to responsible recovery," said Education Minister Ian Wishart in an emailed statement.

The University of Winnipeg is eliminating its men's baseball team, both men's and women's wrestling and has put men's soccer on hold for the 2017-18 season until it can afford to hire a coach.

"Because of the situation that we're in, a frozen provincial grant increase, we can no longer afford to subsidize the teams," said Minaker.

Approximately 60 students play on the affected teams. The school will save almost $400,000 from the sports cuts.

'We're really concerned,' say students

Laura Garinger, president of the University of Winnipeg Students' Association, said students will feel the cuts.

"I know that the administration is being put in a very difficult position right now," she said.

Premier Brian Pallister's budget on April 11 effectively cut funding to post-secondary schools when inflation is factored in.

The budget allocated $699 million for universities and colleges in 2017-2018, up 0.29 per cent from last year.​ Canada's inflation rate is currently 1.6 per cent.

Garinger expects the Manitoba government to approve new legislation this fall, Bill 31, that will allow universities to raise tuition up to five per cent. 

"We're really concerned about that because the operational grants for the university [are] stagnant … They'll have no choice but to raise tuition to the full extent that they can."

Cuts to senior management

Over the past decade, the university said it has streamlined administration and cut more than $16 million in annual expenses.

Since July it has eliminated 15 per cent of its senior management positions.

"We are one of the most efficient universities in the country when it relates to the amount of money that we're spending on staff versus the number of students that we have," said Minaker.

While the school is cutting five faculty positions, Minaker added the board is trying to "mitigate" impact on students.

"We've really tried to preserve academic excellence," he said. "The focus really here is in reducing administration, reducing some expenditures and then the athletics restructuring."

The University of Winnipeg receives the smallest annual operating grant per student from the province in Manitoba. 

Another factor squeezing the university's resources is that tuition increases are limited to 1.3 per cent, which works out to about $63 a year more for the average student. 

Contracts with University of Winnipeg professors and those who deliver direct support to students do not expire until 2019 and 2020.