Paul Betts – Letter to Premier Brian Pallister

Dear Premier Pallister,

I am writing to express my disappointment with the government’s decision to cut funding to post-secondary education. The president at the University of Winnipeg, where I work, has informed the UW community that the operating grant will be reduced by $2.3 million this year, which is minus 3.7 per cent. This provincial decrease is on top of other revenue losses from campus operations impacted by COVID-19, which may amount to $4 million.

Cuts to post-secondary education make no sense at this time. First, education is the driver of the economy. Second, we are busier than ever working to provide quality education for our students; we are worth the cost, and the impact on the economy of post-secondary education bears this out. Economists indicate that investment in the public sector, not cuts, is the best approach to supporting the economy during this crisis. Finally, post-secondary operating grants are already tight, and the pandemic means we are already doing more with less.

As a simple example of the work of universities in Manitoba, consider the role and costs of technology during this time. During the Spring/Summer term, UW is offering over 300 courses, ALL OF THEM ONLINE. This is an enormous burden on both the technology infrastructure and staff. At this time, a prudent and supportive decision by the provincial government would have been to work with post-secondary institutions to mitigate the technology demands currently faced. Such planning would need to be both short and long term because scientists suggest that social distancing may be needed until 2022.

Every member of my university community is doing considerable EXTRA work at this time to enhance our ability to deliver post-education services during this pandemic. We deserve to be supported by the provincial government, and we are worth the cost. The government “asks for all hands on deck.” Post-secondary education is already all hands on deck in its effort to maintain quality education services during this crisis.

This morning I watched the snow birds fly over our neighborhood. Many of the neighbors were outside watching too. It was a moment of hope during a difficult time. Any form of cuts is demoralizing to the citizens of this province, which have measurable economic and social impacts. It makes no sense to cut when there is a cost to these cuts in the form of mental health. It is time for the provincial government to prove that they are worth the cost. It is time for the provincial government to be leaders rather than cutters.   

Paul Betts, PhD

Associate Professor
Faculty of Education
The University of Winnipeg