Cuts to the University mean cuts to Lethbridge

Over fifty years ago, the Lethbridge community fought to establish a local university. This was a decisive investment that would serve to provide world-class education, opportunity and innovation to Lethbridge and draw people to our community. After protests, pickets and a concerted effort on behalf of the community, their vision was rewarded and resulted in the University of Lethbridge. 

Since then, post-secondary education in Lethbridge has flourished – each year thousands of students complete academic programs that enable them to prosper, innovate in the workplace and bolster their local communities. 

However, despite the clear value the U of L has provided to our citizens and our economy, the provincial government is threatening this success story with extensive cut-backs. These cuts will have long-lasting detrimental effects on the many benefits and services the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College bring to our community. Our city will not be the same after they are done.

A University Community

Official sod turning ceremony for Academic/Residence building, 1969 

Lethbridge is a university town with students making up 10% of our population. The U of L is the city’s second largest employer only next to Alberta Health Services (another sector that is currently threatened with drastic funding reductions). Lethbridge College is its fifth. The cuts the government is making to these institutions will have a very direct, immediate and negative impact in our community. 

Just consider Lethbridge’s West Side. Before the University was built, there was no West Side to Lethbridge. Now, approximately 40,000 Lethbridge residents (40% of our population) live in West Lethbridge and this number continues to grow. The new housing and commercial developments were undoubtedly nucleated by the University and this is compelling evidence of the University’s economic and cultural significance. University services such as the classes offered by the Fine Arts department, science outreach and summer children’s camps, the use of facilities such as the Max Bell Regional Aquatic Centre and the 1st Choice Savings Centre, and public programming like the popular Public Professor series, will be affected by sustained deep cuts.  

And indeed, the on-going cuts to post-secondary education are already having an immediate negative impact on our institutions, community, and local economy. 

Strength in Diversity

View of supporters of an autonomous University of Lethbridge march along 4 Avenue South. Owen Holmes, Russell Lewskew and Ted Orchard are leading the demonstrators, 1966

The value of post-secondary education is tremendous. Our University and College and their graduates create a more diverse, educated and savvy local culture that attracts new businesses, industries, and job opportunities. It also brings in money through grants and collaborations,which results in additional job creation and the new opportunities in health, the environment, and technology. As large employers, jobs at these institutions bring important income to the businesses in town, drive the real estate market in our city and grow the property tax base. 

Unfortunately, between vacant positions being abolished and employees being let go, the University has lost over 100 jobs and constitutes a huge loss to the community considering the value these jobs bring to Lethbridge. 

Student Impact

And what will these cuts mean for our students? Many Lethbridge families have benefited from having quality institutions in their hometown, just as the founders of the University hoped for fifty years ago. Recently, over 200 Lethbridge high school graduates were able to stay in town to attend the university. A further 130 came to Lethbridge from surrounding communities to continue their education. If the university loses programs, what impact will that have on our students? Will students need to go further afield to find quality programming that meets their needs? And if they do, will they come back? Additionally, will the tuition increases make it harder for students to afford their education? As the U of L Graduate Student’s Association said, “The budget burden should not be borne by students.”

The university has also made a strong push to develop world-class graduate programs that attract students from across the globe and build future leaders. But with a focus on “performative outcomes”, the diversity of programming is also under fire. Lauren Zink, current PhD student and member of the Graduate Student Association expressed her concerns over how Provincial Government cuts will affect graduate studies: “With priority of current initiatives surrounding industrialization and commercialization of research, our graduate programs that are centered around knowledge-seeking and creative development are in danger, putting the holistic nature of the University of Lethbridge’s graduate education program at risk. There is a high degree of competition in the recruitment of graduate students and it is imperative that we continue to invest in the caliber and affordability of our graduate programs in order to attract and retain the quality students that are going to be the driving force behind Alberta’s economic growth and diversification moving forward.”

Opportunity for the Future

“March to the Park” in support of the University of Lethbridge, 1966

Continued cuts will and are resulting in the following in: 

  • Further job losses
  • Massive tuition hikes for our students 
  • Reduced course offerings
  • Larger class sizes 
  • Increased workload
  • Reduced high impact student learning opportunities 
  • A loss of a host of services to the community

The citizens of Lethbridge fought to create the university and college over half a century ago, believing that these institutions would strengthen our community. Diluting the quality and delivery of post-secondary education will have long-term effects within the Lethbridge community. Now, more than ever, let us all speak up to stop the cuts to education!  

Current ULFA members at an information picket, 2021

So what would these cuts mean to you? And how can you support the campaign?

  • Learn more about the campaign at the Stop PSE Cuts website
  • Email Minister of Advanced Education Nicolaides, Premier Kenney, and your local MLA here
  • Follow Public Interest Alberta on Twitter @PIAlberta
  • Share on Facebook
  • Request a lawn sign
  • Remember to follow ULFA on Twitter @ULFAssociation and on Facebook
  • Visit our Community page for further updates

Current ULFA member with her Stop the Cuts lawn sign, 2021.