Friday, March 26, 2010

Provincial Funding Cuts Hit GPRC

The impacts of the tight provincial budget haven't just hit funding for municipalities, it's also had an impact on post-secondary education in Alberta. I've mentioned before how reductions in provincial funding for municipalities have directly increased taxes in GP. The media release I received this morning notes how Grande Prairie Regional College is impacted. GPRC is an important part of our community both economically & socially and I think it's important that we lobby the province to provide a level of funding that will see the institution grow.

GPRC Media Release
March 25, 2010

Tight reins on spending at GPRC in New Budget Year

The core values of Grande Prairie Regional College have been the guiding principles during budget planning for the coming year, according to Board Chair Michael O’Connor. The quality of education for students, and the protection of the people employed by the institution were the factors at front of mind while the College adjusted its budget in response to the reduced operating grant from the Government of Alberta for the budget year 2010-2011, which begins July 1.

“The Administration of our College has presented a lean and efficient strategy which keeps the institution strong and growing – on both campuses,” says O’Connor.

In February, the Alberta Government budget announcement included a 6% reduction in the operating grants across the post-secondary system in Alberta. For GPRC, the impact is a 4.7% ($2.0 Million) reduction in its annual operating grant. The announcement had been anticipated by GPRC in the light of current economic realities, and a strategy was presented by Administration and reviewed by the GPRC Board of Governors today. A final budget will come forward for approval at the May meeting of the Board.

The reduction has been addressed through a number of measures. People across the institution were asked to identify cost reductions in their departments. “We have made reductions people felt they could live with in the short term,” explains Don Gnatiuk, President and CEO of the College. “The savings came equally from across the organization, and we are very proud of our people for stepping forward to help find this solution.” Some of the shortfall has been met by applying operation contingency funds.

“This budget is tight, no question,” says Gnatiuk. “We are running very lean in order to protect our people, and to continue to provide our students with top quality education. There is limited contingency funding in our strategy, but it is designed to keep our institution strong and growing – our future is exciting.”

Among the strategies suggested to institutions by Advanced Education and Technology is the review of low-enrolment programs, which the College is doing. Other implications of the reduction include a possible capping of classes and programs. The current practice has been to add sections as needed to meet demand, which adds cost. There may also be some impact on timetabling, according to Susan Bansgrove, Vice President Academic. “Class times may be less convenient in the short term as we conserve our resources and it is possible that not all courses will be offered every semester. Strategies for the coming year include close management of overtime and position vacancies. We are putting our energy and resources toward ensuring the best quality educational experience for our students – the dedication and commitment of our teaching faculty and support staff is unfaltering.”

An additional impact of the changing economy is in the Apprenticeship area. The demand for apprentices within industry in the Province has decreased dramatically over the past year, and the trades space commitments allocated by Alberta Industry Training has decreased accordingly. Some restructuring of trades program delivery will result from this decrease.

“This is a situation driven strictly by demand from industry,” explains Bansgrove. “Apprenticeship training is always cyclical, and change is expected whenever the economy shifts. At the moment, there are some 7,000 trades apprenticeship spaces unfilled across the system. The commitment levels for GPRC have been reduced in all trades but one, and we anticipate that a few trades positions will be affected as we rationalize these changes.”

The current tight budget has not deterred GPRC from its focus on the future. Capital projects have not been impacted by the reductions, and will continue as planned. “Our campuses are being steadily improved through the capital grants and funds which we have received,” explains Gnatiuk. “There are a number of exciting projects underway which not only strengthen post-secondary education in our region but which support and strengthen our local economy.”

The coming years are anticipated with optimism and enthusiasm by GPRC. “We are using this time to streamline our business, improve our processes and find new efficiencies,” says Gnatiuk. “We are preparing for the future, developing new programs, getting ready so that when the funding once again becomes available, we are ready to grow.”

For further comment please contact:
Don Gnatiuk, President and CEO
Grande Prairie Regional College

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