Despite announcing a billion-dollar surplus in their budget last month, the Saskatchewan Party government is cutting university funding this year by more than 3%, continuing a decade-long trend of cuts and underfunding that has led to budget cuts and tuition hikes at Saskatchewan’s post-secondary institutions.

While the government claims that they’ve increased funding for post-secondary education, budget estimates reveal that universities, federated and affiliated colleges will receive $431.8 million in operating grants 2023-24 – a funding cut of $14.1 million or 3.2%. Over the past decade, funding for the sector has decreased by a total of $41 million or 8.7% compared to the 2013-14 provincial budget.

“This is absolutely the wrong direction for our province to be going in,” said Judy Henley, President of CUPE Saskatchewan. “Investing in post-secondary education is investing in the future of our province, and our universities and colleges are vital to growing our economy and retaining skilled workers. At a time when we’re facing a record surplus, we should be investing in our post-secondary institutions, not making cuts.”

This year’s budget shows a decrease in operating grant funding at the University of Saskatchewan of $15.5 million or 5.6% compared to last year. The University of Regina is facing operating grant funding cuts of $5.5 million or 4.8% when compared to the previous year, and First Nations University of Canada is also facing an operating grant funding cut of 4.8%. Prior to the provincial budget, the University of Regina was already facing a funding shortfall and indicated they were looking at cost-cutting measures including budget reductions of 5-7% and encouraging faculty to take early voluntary retirement.

“Universities and colleges have already faced tuition hikes, service cuts, and layoffs over the past decade,” said Gail Lasiuk, President of CUPE 1975, representing employees at the University of Saskatchewan. “The recent Saskatchewan Party budget poses more of the same tough choices for Saskatchewan campuses. The government claims their budget is “Growth that Works for Everyone,” but clearly that doesn’t include many in post-secondary. Further cuts and rising tuition are expected to balance post-secondary budgets while the government sits on a record surplus.”

CUPE represents over 3,300 members working in Saskatchewan’s university sector as support workers, sessional lecturers, post-doctoral fellows, and research and teaching assistants.