Alberta Budget Cuts Translate Into Program Suspensions, Staff Cuts at Lakeland College
Lakeland College recently announced that the college will be forced to suspend certain programs and cut staff positions in order to shoulder the 7.3 percent funding decrease in the Alberta government’s budget. Facing a $4 million deficit for the 2013-14 school year caused by the budget cuts, the college’s board of governors had to make the difficult decision of selecting which programs stayed and which were suspended.
“It’s a tough day for the college,” said Lakeland President and CEO Glenn Charlesworth. “All week we’ve been talking to the people who have been affected by this budget reduction and those are tough conversations.”
The decision was ultimately made to focus on the core Lakeland programs that are most vital to industries in the area. Lakeland will no longer accept new students into nine of its programs, including, among others, American Sign Language and deaf studies, sign language interpretation, practical nursing and office administration.
Programs related to energy and agriculture – both critical industries in the region – will remain.
The Child Development Centres on both Lakeland’s Vermillion and Lloydminster campuses will also close. The decision to close the CDC, says Charlesworth, was not an easy one. Though he admits the CDC benefits the community, it costs the college $70,000 a year to subsidize the Vermillion CDC.
The CDC, says Charlesworth, “is on the periphery, it’s not central to what we do. So we’re sad to have to close it, we didn’t want to close it, but … when you’re faced with a $4 million shortfall, you’ve got to make some hard decisions.”
As a result, some daycare staff and several administrative positions within the college were eliminated. According to the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), as many as 60 jobs may ultimately be eliminated, including 35 employees represented by the union.
“If you want to become a nurse and you live in Lloydminster, you now have to leave your family behind, and shoulder the expenses of an education in Edmonton,” says Guy Smith, President of the AUPE. “It’s becoming a common theme: fewer jobs and lower quality of programs if you live in rural Alberta.”
Many in Alberta’s deaf community are troubled by the closing of Lakeland’s ASL programs, who believe the cuts mean that the provincial government has backtracked on its promise to ensure budget cuts wouldn’t affect the vulnerable. Many argue that closing the programs will create a barrier to the deaf community’s basic human right to have access to communication.
Alberta’s Associate Minister of Services for Persons with Disabilities, Frank Oberle, said the province would look into saving the program. However, says Oberle, the ASL programs do “have a problem with low enrollment.”
For now, Lakewood President Charlesworth reminds students affected by the cuts that Lakeland is not the only college having to make difficult decisions.
“We all have to live within budgets and things will happen to us that we have to deal with and we have to accommodate,” says Charlesworth. “We are not the only institutions doing this. There are 26 institution in this province going through this exercise.”
Colleges mentioned: Lakeland College