STU budget development report reveals almost $500,000 operating deficit for 2021-22

    A wallet sits on a table next to a couple of Canadian coins. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

    St. Thomas University released the 2022-2023 budget development report, showing an operating deficit of almost $500,000 for the 2021-2022 fiscal year before inter-fund transfers to cover the shortfall. In ancillary services, there is a forecasted deficit of roughly $230,000 compared to a budgeted surplus of $308,000. 

    “Given our recent deficits and ongoing challenge in balancing our operating budget, our most pressing issue is continued financial sustainability,” said Dawn Russell, STU’s president, in the report.

    STU has two main revenues: The operating grant from the Government of New Brunswick and the tuition and fees collected from students. Since a portion of the operating grant depends on the enrolment level, STU will prioritize the increase of enrolment through student recruitment and retention.

    The operating grant is mainly in the hands of the government, but STU and the STU Students’ Union are advocating to maintain a stable revenue to counter the deficit.

    Jeffrey Carleton, vice-president communications at STU, said the New Brunswick Student Alliance is lobbying the government. 

    “Universities face particular inflationary pressures, that if aren’t accounted for in the operating grant then have to be accounted for by students in tuition,” he said.

    Other strategies involve securing external funding for scholarships and rationalizing expenses.

    Reg Gallant, acting vice-president of finance and administration, said the strategies are well-placed, but do not rule out an increase in tuition.

    “It’s very unlikely tuition will stay the same,” he said. “We’re always looking to keep tuition increases at a minimum.”

    But, Gallant said course allocation will not be affected by the deficit since it depends on professors’ collective agreements.

    ​​Every year, the deans and the vice-president academic consult with each department to see which courses individual departments have to teach, depending on degree requirements. They also discuss what the department’s full-time faculty will look like, which can fluctuate annually, depending on if professors apply for sabbatical leave, said Gallant. 

    Course allocation in each department stays relatively static to ensure required courses are offered. Full-time faculty wages are fixed, but part-time wages can fluctuate. 

    “Sometimes you might replace a full-time [faculty member] with some part-time staff. It just depends on the conditions,” said Gallant.

    Carleton said at the end of the budgeting process, the STU community can understand why these decisions were made. 

    “What we try and do in the report is have all the pieces there and the building blocks so students have as much understanding as they can,” he said.