In what he called “the spirit of transparency,” Provost Benoit-Antoine Bacon delivered a public presentation about the University’s 2017-18 operating budget alongside Vice-President (Finance and Administration) Donna Janiec on Wednesday.
The October 11 presentation reviewed the operating budget, which was approved by the Board of Trustees in May.
“I think this is a really important conversation,” Bacon told the crowd who gathered in the Kinesiology building auditorium.
This year, the University saw a revenue increase of $32.4 million, which is a 6.2 per cent jump from 2016-17. As a result, the University’s total revenue now amounts to $555.2 million.
This revenue is generated from a variety of categories, including tuition, government grants and other student fees. A significant portion of the 6.2 per cent revenue increase seen this year came from growth of the student population following the increased number of first-year classes and international students.
The budget also accounts for the way the University invests money within the institution itself. The University’s total internal investments have reached $139.8 million, which is a 5.7 per cent increase from 2016-17.
Investment funds mainly go towards the shared central services of the University, including the Advancement Office, the International Office, the Athletics and Recreation Office and more. This also goes towards funding initiatives that focus on international, equity and sexual violence prevention and response.
Funds specifically allocated to the faculties and schools increased by $20.3 million this year, which is a 6.5 per cent increase from 2016-17. Bacon and the faculty deans decided to use a significant portion of this money for faculty renewal.
On average over the past six years, the University hired 22 new faculty members per year, which Bacon says is relatively low. To combat this with a renewal plan in place, the University will now hire 40 tenured stream faculty members per year for five years, amounting to 200 new faculty members in total.
$36.6 million in revenues is set aside for what Bacon called the “university fund” — $22 million of which is pre-committed to paying off various debts and payments. The rest will be used for things like deferred maintenance and infrastructure renewal.
This year, the University has set aside $1 million to be used for equity, diversity and inclusion efforts.
Janiec followed Bacon’s breakdown by explaining some of the financial risks and barriers currently facing Queen’s. One barrier she identified is in relation to the second Strategic Mandate Agreement (SMA2) signed with the Ontario government.
According to Bacon, the provincial government has decided to become more hands-on in terms of enrollment to address the difficulty some Ontario universities are facing with meeting their enrollment targets.
In the SMA2, the government has identified a mid-point enrollment target for all Ontario universities and has said that if an institution is within three per cent above or below this target, their government funding won’t be affected.
While this serves as a protection for universities whose enrollment is dropping, it serves as a sort of “cap” on growth for institutions like Queen’s.
Since enrollment numbers were already increased in 2015, Bacon said the University isn’t necessarily looking to grow on a large scale in the near future.
Other financial barriers include the University’s pension plan deficit that continually needs to be paid off, infrastructure maintenance projects and collective bargaining agreements with various employee groups.
One individual in attendance pointed out that the budget “disproportionately advantages teaching over research” for faculty members. Bacon agreed, but assured the crowd that he already begun addressing this issue for the 2018-19 budget, which is already in the works.
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