The 2023 provincial budget will see the first increase in real dollars for post-secondary funding in seven years.
Advanced Education and Training funding is expected to increase by $169 million from last year’s budget due to increased personnel costs and the effects of inflation on operational expenses at the province’s universities and colleges.
This figure includes things like maintenance costs, while $65 million of the funds will go towards post-secondary operating funding. The province will also cap tuition increases at 2.75 per cent.
Canadian Federation of Students Manitoba chairperson Marie Paule Ehoussou said that “any win is a win” no matter how small, but expressed concern for what the future may hold.
“Them saying that they will cap the tuition, it’s a good start,” she said.
“But also, if we look at their press release about the budget, it doesn’t say for how long, so that’s the actual primary problem.”
The Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations (MOFA) issued a press release that said the budget takes “a step in the right direction” but “fails to repair the damage inflicted on the post-secondary education sector since 2016 and also does not provide a breakdown of
funding between colleges and universities.”
“One year of good news will not fix seven years of bad choices,” the statement quoted MOFA vice-president Allison McCulloch as saying.
A press release from the Canadian Federation of Students Manitoba said that the organization was “disappointed by the lack of supports for post-secondary students in Budget 2023.” The federation added that “students are demanding a significant reduction in tuition.”
Ehoussou pointed out that many students have struggled to access financial aid due to delays with Manitoba Student Aid and said the system “needs improvement.”
UMSU president Jaron Rykiss argued that the financial pressures of being a student need to be considered in the government’s budgeting process.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction, but obviously we would love to continue seeing more and more investment,” he said.
Rykiss said that he was “really disappointed” that international student health care was not mentioned in the budget.
“It’s completely disheartening to see that, despite our attempts and [the Manitoba Alliance of Post-Secondary Students’] attempts over the past couple of years to get international students reinstated onto the health-care plan, that the province continues to ignore and disrespect international students across the province,” he said.
Regarding the tuition increase cap, Rykiss said that he was “ecstatic” to hear about the decision and called it “a huge win for students.”
Rykiss noted the union’s recent pre-budget submission to the university’s administration and said he hopes that “with this increased influx of funding, that the administration also listens to where students believe that money should be going.”
In addition to $12.6 million for deferred maintenance costs, the University of Manitoba will receive a 10.8 per cent increase in its operating grant — around $37.8 million, although this includes $1 million already expected for nursing increases.
U of M president and vice-chancellor Michael Benarroch highlighted the importance of post-secondary funding to the labour market in Manitoba.
“If you think about health sciences sectors, nursing shortages, long term that can really only be solved through the post-secondary sectors,” he said.
“If you think of other areas where labour force is needed, again, many of those trainees, especially highly qualified, can only be done through the post-secondary sectors.”
Minister of Advanced Education and Training Sarah Guillemard acknowledged that labour shortages were a factor in increasing funding for post-secondary institutions.
Guillemard projected that the province will need to fill 114,000 jobs within the next five years and that 60 per cent will require post-secondary education.
Rykiss said he doubts that the funding increase being made less than a year before the next provincial election is a coincidence, and encouraged students to think critically “about the ways the provincial government is treating students.”
Guillemard said “the proof will be in the pudding in years to come.”
“When you see sustainable funding moving forward, that’s going to be proof of all the hard work we’ve put in over the last seven years to allow us to have some flexibility to be able to expand programs,” she said.