At its meeting held last night (April 29, 2021), the Mount Saint Vincent University Board of Governors approved the University’s 2021/2022 operating budget.

The process

The goal was to develop a budget that focuses on the needs of our students, as well as our commitment to academic excellence and student success, while balancing the pressures imposed by the pandemic. Additionally, our aim was to align investments with MSVU’s strategic priorities and ensure a focus on long-term sustainability.

Based on a commitment to a transparent, consultative and accountable budget planning approach, budget town halls were held for students, faculty and staff. Subsequently, the University Budget Advisory Committee (including students, faculty and staff members) reviewed data and input in preparation for a proposed budget to be presented to the Interim President and Vice-Chancellor. The Interim President and Vice-Chancellor, in turn, recommended it to the Board of Governors’ Finance Committee who approved it for recommendation to the University’s Board of Governors. A presentation on the draft budget was also made in advance to the University’s Senate.

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

Context

The University sought to balance its 2021/2022 budget as part of our commitment to long-term sustainability. Planning was based on a 1% increase in funding from the Nova Scotia government, which accounts for 37.0% of the university’s total 2021/2022 budgeted revenues (down from 40.3% last year).

Continued financial impacts caused by the pandemic were another key contextual consideration, including significantly decreased Residence and conference services revenues. While MSVU received emergency funding from the Province in January 2021, these pandemic impacts are anticipated to persist for some time.

An additional premise of this year’s planning was continued fiscal restraint in terms of expenditures, with investments in key strategic areas. MSVU has a long history of fiscal prudence and, across our operations, continued careful management of expenditures is expected.

Highlights

This year’s budget prioritizes a continued expanding need for student supports, including mental health supports, financial aid, and supports for students from equity-deserving groups. In particular, the budget includes a total of $3.176 million in student financial aid – our largest investment in student financial support to date and an increase of $476,000 compared with before the pandemic.

Further, the university has made permanent key student support positions that were previously designated temporary, including the Black Student Support Advisor and the Counselling Services Intake Coordinator.

The university also continues to invest in faculty renewal. As noted in this year’s budget, we plan to welcome 11 new tenure track faculty, including four Black Scholars and one lab instructor. This year’s budget also includes six term faculty positions.

The Board approved use of the COVID-19 funding received from the Province in January to continue to support costs related to the pandemic response, including, for example, costs related to online course delivery and enhanced cleaning on campus. Further investments in IT&S and online learning will include support for software, cyber security and WIFI upgrades, tech navigators, and the IT&S help desk.

The Board approved a tuition increase of 3% for 2021/2022 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. The need for a tuition increase is rooted in a commitment to long-term sustainability and also driven by factors including an increasing funding gap, as a 1% increase in the government grant doesn’t keep pace with increasing costs (including inflationary pressures) and expanding student service needs. MSVU tuition fees remain among the lowest in Nova Scotia – with undergraduate science tuition fees and the international student tuition differential at the second lowest provincially.

Looking ahead

Universities have a significant role to play in local and national economic and social recovery post-pandemic. We look forward to working with our government partners to ensure that potential is fully realized and that the needs of our students remain front and centre.

And as we continue to respond to pandemic impacts and associated uncertainty, we will continue to ensure a sound financial approach that will position MSVU for success for countless years to come.