Department of Economics to hold Budget Post-Mortem 2015 on April 2

With Alberta Premier Jim Prentice’s “once in a generation” budget announced on March 26, economics expert Bob Ascah says “it’s going to be tough” for the post-secondary sector.

Ascah, a Fellow of the Institute for Public Economics will be moderating an expert in the Department of Economics sixth-annual Post-Mortem budget panel on April 2. The panel will be discussing the government’s tax and fee increases and cuts to operating expenditures. They will also analyze the prospects of Prentice calling for an expected re-election in the near future.

The Department of Economics will be welcoming Canadian Taxpayers Federation Vice-President (Communications) Scott Hennig, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) Executive Secretary Treasurer Jason Heistad, former Alberta Liberal Party Leader Kevin Taft and Edmonton Journal political affairs columnist Graham Thomson. Department of Economics Professor Emeritus Melville McMillan will be presenting a backgrounder on Alberta’s fiscal situation. Each panelist will be given six or seven minutes to present their thoughts on the budget, with Ascah introducing the panelists and fielding questions from the audience.

Post-secondary institutions will be expecting a four per cent cut in funding from the government over the next two years, with 1.4 per cent in 2015. The cuts are expected to total $88 million in the next two years.

This could mean bad news for the province’s universities, McMillan said.

“I can say that we should be expecting tuition and fees to be going up considerably more in the future, and I expect the post-secondary experience will likely deteriorate regardless,” he said.

Ascah agreed with McMillan, and called the government’s comments towards the post-secondary budget “troubling.”

With the province looking to decrease institutional dependency on government funding, they are encouraging the university’s Board of Governors to find new revenue streams.

This could increase the costs to students, as one of those expected revenue streams could be tuition, Ascah said.

“The universities will be able to charge whatever tuition they want, within reason,” Ascah said. “I grew up in an age where post-secondary was seen as a way of moving up the ladder and offering opportunity. If we’re overcharging people to go do law school or business school, it’s not going to be the sons of the working poor anymore.

“It hardens the social structure, which to me, is a problem.”

Alberta Budget Post-Mortem is free to attend, and will be held on Thursday, April 2 at 4 p.m. in Tory Lecture Theatre L-12.

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