Governors to adopt “conservative” fiscal plan for next three years
On Tuesday Mar. 14, the Capilano University Board of Governors (BOG) held a meeting to analyze, review and approve the first budget of President Paul Dangerfield’s tenure, who assumed office in Oct. 2016.
According to the University Act, British Columbia’s legislation governing universities, the president submits a fiscal plan to the Board of Governors that can then be analyzed or adopted with or without changes to the budgets for operating and capital expenditure. Capital expenditure is understood as anything pertaining to maintenance or renovation of the building, university equipment and land management. Operating expenditure has to do with employee salaries and other compensation, as well as funds spent on academics, students and recruiting.
As with all public universities in BC except UBC (21 members), Capilano Board of Governors is comprised of 15 members. Eight of those members, in the case of most universities, or 11 at UBC (majority of vote share), are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor, on the advice of the current Minister of Advanced Education, Dr. Andrew Wilkinson (BC Liberal). CapU’s Chancellor, David Fung, the President, and five elected Governors, including two faculty members, two students and one employee representative, round out the rest of the Board’s membership.
Early on in the meeting during his verbal report to the Board, Governor and Chair Soon Kim touted the budget for it’s clarity, and thanked both President Paul Dangerfield and VP of Finance, Jacqui Stewart for the part they played in it’s development.
In her overview of the budget, Stewart explained that while CapU is expecting roughly 40 per cent of the University’s total revenue to come from the BC Government’s operating grant, the administration and board will not know the exact amount until after the May elections. Depending on who is elected, the grant could be adjusted for a number of reasons. “If that amount changes, and not in a good way, we will need to make changes to our budget,” said Stewart.
The rest of the university’s revenue is projected to come from tuition fees. One of the issues putting the university under financial duress is declining enrolment from domestic students. “We can’t afford to go any lower in domestic enrolment,” said Stewart. To mitigate risks of declining enrolment [discussion], the university will increase tuition fees by two per cent for both domestic and international students, something Stewart claimed was in line with Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Douglas College, and Langara College. In the fall of 2012, the single semester headcount at CapU (based on enrolled students as of Nov 1.) was 8,525. By fall 2015, it had dropped by 22 per cent to 6,635. All odds point to even smaller numbers for Fall 2016’s Nov. 1 headcount, with those facts yet to be published by the province. While the nearby institutions listed above have seen their numbers fluctuate or drop slightly, none have come close to dipping by 20 per cent.
According to the budget, international student enrolment has grown, but Stewart was hesitant to “overstate” that progress. The potential risks to the budget for Stewart are enrolment numbers as they are things the university can’t completely control, but influence. The date for her was Sep. 18, as it is the last day to drop courses with tuition refunds. “If enrolment is lower than projected in September, you can be sure it will be down in January.”
Stewart also cited cyber security as a potential risk to the University’s budget and assets, reassuring the board these threats are rare, but in light of recent attacks on the Federal Government for example, the Board would be remised to ignore it. New advertisements were also a line item Stewart highlighted as intrinsic to CapU’s priority to grow the student population.
One highlight in this budget includes directing an additional $300K towards bursaries and scholarships to satisfy unmet need and better support students.
This comes on the heels of doubling the amount spent on bursaries from $250K to $500K for the spring semester. The $300 will also allow for the development of in-course and program-specific scholarships.
Dangerfield called the budget “relatively conservative”, conceding that the biggest risk to the budget he and his administration have proposed is “uncertainty around government”. British Columbians will go to the polls in May to decide which party will govern the province until 2021.
Since Advanced Education is a provincial responsibility, the CapU’s Administration and governing bodies are paying close attention to the election, as all possible outcomes are set to impact this budget, and future spending at the university. As Dangerfield was voicing his concerns, BOG Chair and noted BC Liberal Donor (National Post) Soon Kim jokingly asked his fellow governors who they intended to vote for on May 9. “So, are you guys voting BC Liberal or NDP?”
The next BOG meetings are scheduled to take place on Apr. 18, and May 16, one week after the provincial election.
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