St. Thomas University rolled out its budget plans for the 2018-19 fiscal year at a town hall meeting on March 22.
The university’s fiscal priorities include recovering from a deficit by stabilizing enrolment, hiking international student tuition and addressing operating grant inequity.
President Dawn Russell explained the budget development process and provided an update on the memorandum of understanding with the provincial government, which STU still has not signed.
The university has argued the funding framework provides STU with an unfair grant.
Russell thanked the Students’ Union, alumni and students for lobbying the provincial government. She said the board of governors is waiting to hear back on results from their last meeting.
“Our fiscal priority is to improve our financial sustainability by taking a multidimensional approach,” Russell said.
STU ended the last fiscal year with a deficit of $447,000 and is on track to end the current year in a similar place. While this will be the university’s fourth-consecutive year with a deficit, the total is down substantially from a high of $1.3 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year, according to vice-president finance and administration Lily Fraser.
Operating costs increase by approximately 3.7 per cent annually.
Fraser said during her budget presentation the reduction in deficit is a significant improvement for a small organization like STU.
“We are making progress, it just takes time to recover from a deficit of that magnitude,” she said.
Plans to sell the Forest Hill residence complex, formerly Rigby Hall, are still in the works. Fraser said the university has saved money by just operating Chatham Hall.
Enrolment has declined by roughly 25 per cent between 2007 and 2016, and STU is taking steps to adjust with the dip. Other Maritime universities have experienced similar declines. In response, the university wants to bring international tuition to the regional average to boost revenue.
STU is proposing a two per cent increase in domestic tuition and a five per cent increase in international tuition.
Wasiimah Joomun, a second-year international student and incoming STUSU vice-president student life, asked for an explanation of the five per cent increase.
Fraser said the five per cent is based on looking at operational expenses. The goal in pricing international tuition is to recover costs, because no funding from the provincial operating grant goes toward international students, she said.