A message from Mustansar Nadeem, Vice-President Administration

The Mount Saint Vincent University Board of Governors approved the University’s 2020/2021 operating budget at a meeting held yesterday, September 24, 2020. Budget development and approval was delayed this year due to the pandemic. An interim operating plan was approved by the Board earlier this summer.

The process

The goal was to develop a budget that focuses on the needs of our students, and our commitment to academic excellence and student success, while balancing the pressures imposed by the pandemic.

The University Budget Committee, with members including students, faculty and staff, reviewed stakeholder input and data in preparation for a proposed budget for the University’s Board of Governors. The Budget Committee voted to recommend the proposed 2020-21 budget to the President. The President, in turn, recommended the budget to the Board of Governors’ Finance Committee who approved it for recommendation to the University’s Board of Governors. The draft budget was also shared in advance with the University’s Senate.

The Board of Governors considered the recommended budget in great detail, reviewing the many factors that were taken into consideration.

Budget highlights

We are pleased to report that our fall enrolment is stable. Though we do have a slight and anticipated decline in our incoming undergraduate class, we are currently reporting a small overall increase in registrations (i.e. units; generally speaking, a half unit is the equivalent of one single-semester course), largely due to increased graduate enrolment and strong student retention. We will provide a full enrolment update next month.

Some of the priority areas in which we’re investing this year include:

Online learning – We will invest an additional $300,000 in online learning to expand staffing, fund increased licensing and software costs, and ensure important infrastructure upgrades. The costs associated with delivering quality online courses and programs are significant. It’s a myth that it’s cheaper than providing face-to-face learning.

Black Student Support Advisor – The University will further invest in Black student support by making the Black Student Advisor position full-time from the previous part-time status.

Student Financial Aid – MSVU will provide $350,000 more in student financial aid this year, with a focus on bursaries to help those who need it most. This investment brings the total student financial aid for 2020/21 to just over $3 million.

New Intake Counsellor – The University will invest in enhanced student mental health supports, including a full-time intake counsellor to triage students and ensure they are provided with timely support and access to necessary services.

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility (EDIA) – The University will establish a new role to focus on creating and implementing a University-wide EDIA action plan in consultation with the president’s advisory committee on EDIA.

Faculty renewal – This year, we plan to welcome 12 new tenure track faculty, five term faculty, one librarian and two lab instructors.

MSVU continues to offer an extensive suite of important student services (all of which have shifted to online delivery), including a top-notch Centre for Academic Advising and Student Success, Accessibility Services, online learning supports, health and counselling services, Aboriginal student supports and more. A complete list of student services is available here.

Pandemic pressures

This year’s budget was impacted by decreased Residence occupancy and other ancillary revenue losses (for example, in conference services). While mitigation measures were implemented, the University Board of Governors has approved its first deficit budget this year, of approximately $974,000. A plan is being implemented to return to a balanced budget within three years. The sustainability of the institution is paramount and we will continue to ensure that MSVU is positioned for success for countless years to come.

As noted earlier this spring, the University’s 2020/2021 budget is based on a tuition fee increase of 3% over last year and an increase to the government grant of 1%. Certain other fees (for example Athletics fees), were waived this year. The University strives to keep tuition fees as low as possible while maintaining its commitment to academic excellence and an exceptional student experience. We also continue to be in touch with the Department of Labour and Advanced Education to ensure we make clear the pandemic-related financial pressures facing universities. The provincial government has not yet made any specific financial commitment to Nova Scotia’s universities; we were obliged to plan in the absence of that confirmation.

Looking ahead

Universities play a critical role in pandemic times. Through teaching, research and community engagement, MSVU and our sister universities will play an essential role in Nova Scotia’s economic and social recovery. And no doubt our stand-out students and graduates will be leading the way here at home and around the world in the months and years to come.

As always, please be in touch with any questions or comments.