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University Of Alberta's Finances Review: Independent Consultants Hired, Lukaszuk Says

Female student sitting on library floor at college campus
Female student sitting on library floor at college campus

The chair of the University of Alberta's board of directors is disregarding the notion that the institution's financial planning is weak.

Doug Goss insists the university is run extremely well and says it will take time to budget in a $70-million shortage without sacrificing excellence.

“There seems to be some kind of notion that there is a bunch of money washing around here,” Goss said to CBC News.

“At the end of February, we’re in the 11th hour of budget planning and a week later were hit with the $70-million differential between what we were planning and what we had to work with," he said to the Edmonton Journal, referring to cuts imposed by the provincial budget.

The Alberta government says its plans to review the university's finances is an attempt to balance its books quicker. Independent consultants have been appointed.

Goss says he received a letter from Advanced Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, stating the review has been ordered to "help identify any potential gaps in fiscal planning for the institution, and ensure the long-term fiscal sustainability."

The university reported a deficit of just under $45 million for the 2013-2014 fiscal year and hopes to balance its budget by April 1, 2015.

“We have to make sure that none of our institutions keep on projecting long-term deficits year after year after year,” Lukaszuk said to CBC News.

“What is the point of having budgets if you are projecting that you are going to live outside of the budget?”

The institution's administration will work cooperatively with the ministry and appointed consultants, said Goss, so they can understand the weight of the financial changes faced by the university and the risks they present to students.

The Alberta government slashed $147 million in funding to all post-secondary institutions in the provincial budget this year.

The university also announced plans earlier this week to axe twenty arts and science programs with low enrollment.

Dean Lesley Cormack of the Faculty of Arts emphasized the cuts were aimed at reducing costs on underused programs and investing in new ones.

The cuts were criticized by many, including NDP's Advanced Education critic Rachel Notley, who said they would have a major impact on students' decisions to stay in Alberta to go to school.

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