A message from Diana Whalen, Interim Vice-President, Administration

I am writing to provide you with an update on the budget process and results of the meeting of the Board of Governors last night.

The process

The University Budget Committee, with 17 members including students, faculty and staff representatives, met eight times over the last three months to review stakeholder input – including a presentation by the MSVU Students’ Union – and data (e.g. enrolment trends) in preparation for a proposed budget for the University’s Board of Governors.

Budget consultations included a town hall hosted by the Mount Students’ Union with information provided and feedback received by the Mount’s Director of Finance and Administration, the AVP Student Experience and the former Vice-President, Administration. We also gathered student input on areas of focus and greatest need at a world café-style open consultation held in January.

The Budget Committee then approved a proposed 2019-20 budget for recommendation 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.

Last night, the Board of Governors considered the recommendation in great detail, reviewing the factors that were taken into consideration, and approved the budget.

Budget highlights

The goal was to develop a financially responsible budget that focuses on the needs of our students, in particular maintaining student services and our commitment to academic excellence and student success.

This year’s budget reflects a modest anticipated 1% enrolment increase, due to continued growth in Bachelor of Education enrolment. This is the first such increase in several years. The budget also takes into account a 1% ($207K) increase in provincial government funding – an increase that is not sufficient to address increasing operational costs, including inflationary pressures.
Based on this context, the Board approved a tuition increase of 3% in order to maintain and enhance student supports. Any decision by the Board to raise tuition is taken very seriously and given much thoughtful consideration.

Enhanced student supports in the year ahead will include a new pilot project that will see the addition of a Counselling Intake Worker to the Mount’s Counselling Services team for the fall and winter terms. The person in this role will triage student requests and ensure students are provided with timely support and access to the necessary services.

Other priorities to be addressed in the year ahead include faculty renewal and continued investment in the Centre for Academic Advising and Student Success.

This budget also reflects the elimination of the distance education supplemental tuition fee currently applied to distance courses offset by an increase in the technology fee for all students ($20 per half credit), subject to approval of the provincial Department of Labour and Advanced Education. Students requested the elimination of the distance education supplemental tuition fee to remove barriers to students in choosing their course delivery method. Based on committee discussions and in keeping with the approach at other universities, it was determined that a technology fee will better reflect the sharing of costs of technology related to online education components available to students both in the classroom and online. For full time students taking two or more online only courses, the cost is essentially the same or lower under the new fee structure.

Also this year, the budget committee assembled a group to review the co-op education fee, an item raised by students. While the sub-committee made good progress in gathering information and reviewing options, there is more work to be done in the coming year. The co-op education fee for 2019/20 will be frozen as the committee continues to review this complex topic and put forward recommendations.

The Mount continues to be one of the most affordable universities and each year hundreds of students benefit from $2.6 million in scholarships and bursaries. The budget maintains the five-year commitment to students of $50,000 in additional bursary funding as a result of the previous market adjustment.

Looking ahead

We continue to advocate to the provincial government for additional funding and are committed to working with our students and students’ union to reinforce these messages.

The Mount has a culture of being financially responsible, and I want to thank our faculty and staff for upholding this approach.