EDMONTON -- How do schools serve up athletic programs with less government funding and during a pandemic? Two big questions facing Athletic Directors like Ian Reade with the University of Alberta.

"I would think across Canada you’re going to see universities slashing athletic programs," said Reade.

It’s already happened with the University of Lethbridge cancelling both the men’s and women’s hockey programs.

Reade told CTV News Edmonton there has been downsizing and cost cutting in the athletics department, including about 13 temporary layoffs, but there are no plans to cut athletic programs at the U of A.

"If you make a cut to a university program you know it generally doesn’t come back."

The U of A is maintaining operating budgets for teams and athletic scholarships. It’s also exploring new ways to raise funds, since restrictions on social gatherings has caused their regular charity events to be cancelled.

Reade doesn’t anticipate more programs being dropped in Western Canada but added the next three months are critical. Decisions need to made on how or when students can return to campuses.

"If students can’t come back to campus and therefore they’re not paying athletic fees... that could drive the situation to a different place," said Reade.

Schools like the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology are also in a holding pattern. NAIT’s athletic conference will host a major meeting in mid-May to discuss if it can stage full or shortened seasons. However, if students can’t play they’ll lose out on scholarships according to NAIT’s Head of Athletics Jordan Richey.

“If they’re not actually competing then we’re unable to provide them with scholarships... so I think everyone in the ACAC is hoping that in some manner there is ACAC sport next year,” said Richey.