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Pay increases at top universities cost Alberta taxpayers and students $154 million

CALGARY, AB: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation released documents obtained through freedom of information requests today showing thousands of employees at the University of Calgary and University of Alberta received pay raises since 2015. The pay raises cost taxpayers and students $154 million.

“One way for universities to help struggling taxpayers and students would be to stop handing out pay increases we can’t afford,” said Franco Terrazzano, the CTF’s Alberta Director. “Considering the realities outside of government and the millions of dollars in pay hikes during the downturn, Premier Jason Kenney should be pushing for pay cuts at Alberta’s big universities.”

Data the CTF obtained through freedom of information requests show that pay raises at the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta have cost taxpayers and students $154 million since 2015. Thousands of employees continued to receive pay raises in 2020, despite the economic downturn.

In 2020, the University of Calgary approved a five per cent tuition hike for most undergraduate students. For context, a five per cent increase in tuition and fee revenue would generate about $12.8 million, which is less than the average annual cost of pay increases since 2015 ($13.1 million).

The University of Calgary is currently proposing tuition hikes up to 15 per cent for 2021, according to the Student Union. The increases will be put to a vote at the Board of Governors meeting today (Dec. 11). In September, the University of Alberta’s president also warned about future tuition hikes.

The majority of university funding is from taxpayers: 57 per cent of University of Calgary’s revenue and 59 per cent of the University of Alberta’s revenue, according to the most recent financial statements. Similarly, salary and benefits account for about 60 per cent of spending at each university. Alberta spends significantly more per student on post-secondary education than other large Canadian provinces, according to the Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s finances.

“Students have been pointing the finger at the government over tuition hikes, but they also need to start asking their school administrators some tough questions,” said Terrazzano. “Taxpayers and students are struggling through the downturn. It’s time for university employees to help shoulder the burden and take a cut.”

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