I think Barry Cooper is correct in saying that Alberta’s minister of advanced education is mostly clueless about the goal of universities. I myself am on record against the minister’s desire to establish dominion over our universities in Alberta, but I am not (and neither is Professor Cooper) against universities keeping their fiscal house in order.
In this post, Alex Husher provides an eye-opening analysis of university finances in Alberta. He places the 7% cuts in context with salaries and university expenses compared to other provinces. It is well worth reading. Here is a little nugget from the post:
Salaries and benefits make-up about 50% of all spending, and dumping salary quickly is damn near impossible; it’s even harder if you’ve just negotiated a contract with staff, guaranteeing raises of 2-3% over the next four years. If you can’t touch that, then a 7% cut quickly becomes a 14% cut in non-salary areas. That’s pretty brutal, even if you are starting from a very high base.
Considering that universities are overburdened with administrators, cutting administration jobs and their typically-bloated salaries might help. The trouble is that administrators make decisions about hiring and cuts, and they tend not to want to hurt their own. Alberta universities spend almost double per full time student than Ontario universities do. It would be good to compare how much more top-heavy our universities in Alberta are in relation to Ontario’s and other provinces’. Sadly, not many universities provide such data.