Brandon University’s budget forecast exposes the gap between what the university has and what it needs, according to BU president Deborah Poff.
"It’s extremely challenging ... these are the consequences if we get no more money," Poff said. "It’s the gap we are facing between what we have and what we need to have."
To avoid having to make any cuts a year from now, BU’s board of governors were told over the weekend that operating grants must increase by $4.5 million or 12.6 per cent in 2014-15. A further increase in 2015-16 of $1.2 million or 3.5 percent and an additional $1.3 million or 3.8 per cent increase in 2016-17 will also be needed.
Universities are required to file forecasts to the provincial Council on Post-Secondary Education this far ahead of the next school year.
While acknowledging there is no guarantee the province will provide any grant increases, the budget forecast also assumes there will no increase — otherwise known as a worst-case scenario.
Advanced Education and Literacy Minister Erin Selby said this is a "planning exercise" that universities across the province are doing.
"It’s this time of year that universities and colleges across the country are doing this sort of thing, looking at their budget, planning their budget, setting their priorities," Selby said.
She also confirmed the province has no plans to "cut or freeze university funding grants in Manitoba."
"Quality education means you fund university, but accessible university means you have to make sure it’s affordable," she said. "We’ve been investing in universities, we’ve more than doubled our investment since we’ve come into office, including at Brandon University, and we plan to keep doing that."
Post-secondary institutions across the province were hit with a budgetary blow when the cash-strapped provincial NDP government receded from its original plan to increase funding by five per cent this year.
Poff said no increase from the province would be "significantly problematic" for the university’s 2014-15 budget.
"What we’ll try to do is balance our budget the best we can," she said. "Even if we got 2.5 per cent, which is what we got this past budget year, that generates about another million dollars for us in income, so that buffers us significantly."
More than 90 per cent of BU’s budget is made up of salaries and benefits — meaning 40 or more out of the 344 full-time teaching and non-teaching positions could be in danger.
"We hope we’re not in that situation and we hope the government doesn’t give us a zero increase in our budget," Poff said.
The current faculty association agreement expires on March 31, 2015, meaning the 2015-16 and 2016-17 budget years will be subject to a new collective agreement.
The current agreement, reached after the longest professors’ strike in the province’s history, allows for a three per cent annual increase for 2014-15. Members of the faculty, not at the top of the salary scale, are also eligible for a service increment ranging in value from 2.25 to three per cent.
Accompanied with provincial funding, the cost of tuition also generates revenue for the university.
Tuition fees are estimated to increase by 1.5 per cent for each of the next three years, under the direction of the province. BU predicts tuition revenues will increase by about 3.5 per cent for 2014-15, 3.5 per cent in 2015-16 and 3.5 per cent in 2016-17. A one per cent increase in tuition equals about $74,000 in revenue.
Continuing to invest in education is "how you keep the economy going," Selby said.
"We’ve done a lot of great projects with Brandon (University), I know there’s more in the future and investing in universities and colleges, it’s investing in the economy."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 1, 2013