Low enrolment numbers appear to be the root of all issues with St. Thomas University’s budget.
At the town hall meeting on Thursday, President Dawn Russell said the reality of the situation at STU leaves no choice but to make some difficult decisions.
“We cannot avoid a difficult financial situation for the upcoming year,” Russell said to the crowd of mostly professors.
Some of the difficult decisions include scrapping the position of Theatre St. Thomas drama coordinator, cutting tenure track positions and raising tuition.
Tuition will be $5,552 for domestic students and $13,192 plus a mandatory $457 health plan fee for international students this fall.
Although the university received a raise in government funding last fall, Russell said there is still a $600,000 gap.
Making matters worse, STU expects only 1,950 full-time students to attend the university next year, 1,000 students less than ten years ago, said vice-president academic and research Barry Craig.
“The fiscal state of the university, our strategic and development plans, and factors such as government funding and enrolment create the context for the choices we make [to] close that gap,” Russell said.
Vice-president finance and administration Lily Fraser presented the projected budget for the upcoming year.
She said the university is expecting a $5,600 surplus this year, which is low considering the size of the operating budget.
“People look at that [surplus] and say, ‘Oh, well, you’re doing okay,’” said Fraser. “But we have a $28.5 million budget so that’s less than 0.1 per cent of the budget amount.”
Part of the reason why the surplus is small is because the university expected to have 175 more students attend this year than it did, said Fraser.
The biggest risk concerning the budget, said Fraser, is student enrolment.
“Initially, when we were looking at our forecast for enrolment we were hoping it would be more than 2,000 students,” said Fraser. “Based on the applications to date, we feel that’s not prudent.”
The STUSU is also expecting trouble next year due to the low enrolment rate.
At the March 27 meeting, vice-president administration Emily Sheen presented a projected budget based on the enrolment numbers presented.
Initial numbers show a seven per cent drop from this year’s STUSU budget to next year. They also project a deficit of $13,416.91 for the union next year.
Sheen will be crunching the numbers more this week and expects to have a revised budget for the April 3 meeting.
Some suggestions given during the question period at the end of the town hall meeting included taking advantage of New Brunswick’s aging population and bring in more mature students, and working to make campus as safe as possible for women.
St. Thomas has the lowest tuition in New Brunswick.