The Bi-Campus 2019/20 Budget Conversation took place on January 27, and covered the past, present and future financial situation of both UNB Fredericton and UNB Saint John.
Available for review were audited financial statements and comparative documents. These documents were presented to, and approved by, the Board of Governors in October and this meeting was an opportunity for public review.
As it stands, UNB has a net deficit of $2.3 million. One of the major contributions to this deficit this year is the loss of the Nursing Grant, which previously brought in approximately $3.7 million in revenue.
Dominating the conversation was discussion of the university’s future financial situation. The Board of Governors had previously aimed to be structurally balanced by 20/21, but the loss of the Nursing Grant is something that cannot be balanced immediately.
“Our current deficit slope is not sustainable,” said Karen Cunningham, the VP Administration and Finance.
Cunningham also believes that the problem can be largely attributed to expense growth.
Paul Mazzerole, UNB president, stressed that UNB cannot count on “cuts, cuts, cuts” and that, in order to rectify this deficit, we need to grow.
They increased student enrollment by an average of 100 students, bringing in an estimated $700 thousand in revenue each year. They stressed that while 15,000 students is substantial, we have done it before and can do it again. As well, one must consider that approximately one fifth of the student population will be online students.
If this proves sustainable, UNB will be deemed profitable by 24/25.
However, this potential growth doesn’t come without risks. In addition to increasing student enrollment, UNB must also increase capital allocation to address maintenance issues that have gone overlooked. Though it will dig us further into the deficit, it will also act as a pull for potential students, particularly the international student market, according to university administration.
UNB claims to remain transparent about it’s financial situation. They are calling upon staff and students to “roll up their sleeves” in preparation for the future, resulting in larger class sizes, and “skeleton staff.”
For students, this begs the question: will the increased pressure to perform in larger class sizes result in a decrease in effective learning?