St. Thomas released its budget development report because it’s facing an operating budget freeze, declining enrolment and an increasing tuition. The university is asking for public feedback by March 4.
“The attached Budget Development Report shares financial information so that our community understands the context for our choices and can participate in identifying solutions to our challenges,” university president Dawn Russell said in an email to the school.
The enrolment went from 2,301 in 2010 to 1,872 in 2014. And tuition rose from $5,195 in the 2013-2014 school year to $5,914 in 2015-2016. The report cites an annual cost increase of three to four per cent. Still, the provincial government recently chose to freeze the operating grant.
“It was nice to see the university begin to bring the gap between revenues and expenditures down a little bit. Although there is still a bit of deficit there,” said Benjamin Graham, STUSU vice-president admin.
Graham said the student union wasn’t really surprised with the projected budget, given the challenges the university is facing. Both Graham and Student Union President, Megan Thomson, were involved in the process.
“One thing we’ll be looking at is the soft funding renewals. Where there’s a bit of a margin between $600,000 and $900,000 depending upon soft funding for certain student services,” said Graham. “And whether or not that soft funding is going to be available for the year. That will certainly be an issue. In brackets they have Aboriginal services as well as Accessibility so certainly were going to be looking at that.”
He said the final budget would come sometime after the March 24 town hall meeting but that’s something the union would keep an eye on.
“For the current 2015-16 fiscal year, we expect to be close to our budgeted targets with general operations having a deficit of $1.3 million before the transfers from endowment funds,” wrote Russell.
The report was released Thursday to students by email. A panel consisting of Russell; Kim Fenwick, the acting vice-president-academic and research, Lily Fraser, vice-president of finance and administration; Reg Gallant, comptroller; Marilyn Dupre, director of the School of Social Work; Ian Nicholson, a psychology professor; Kate Crawford, director of recruitment; Megan Thomson, student union president; Ben Graham, STUSU vice-president admin; George MacIntyre, director of advancement; and Jeffrey Carleton, director of communications.
“The document was sent out to every single student on the student list. It’s good that the university is taking the steps to making it available to every person that may be affected by the document,” said Graham.
The report highlights and compares its tuition and enrolment rates to the other Maritime universities. The 2015-2016 operating budget totals more than $14 million.
“We are in the third year of that agreement which will see tuition increase by 3 per cent of the average provincial tuition,” wrote Russell.
The university plans a town hall meeting March 24 and is asking for the public to address these problems. The report outlines those concerns: “The financial challenges presented in this document. · The setting of domestic and international tuition fees: our domestic tuition fee is now getting close to the provincial average, as was intended by implementation of the five-year domestic tuition fee schedule in 2013. As we plan for the future, how should our tuition fees compare to other universities in the Maritimes in light of the competitive nature of the post-secondary education sector?”.
The full budget is expected after the town hall meetings.