Business faculty optimistic in face of cuts

As other faculties examine ways to cope with budget cuts that could adversely affect student experience, Laurier’s School of Business and Economics (SBE) is taking a different, more optimistic, approach.

According to dean of SBE Ginny Dybenko, the faculty is looking at ways to generate revenue rather than making drastic changes that would impact students. Dybenko said that her experience in the corporate world with cuts has affected how she looks at the current budget.

“Having lived through it a couple times, I now know that you can Xerox less and turn every light bulb out and stuff like that but at the end of the day what you’re really looking to do is generate revenue.”

Cuts in other faculties have led to diminished class offerings, increased class sizes and seem considerably more dire than the minimal changes Dybenko forecasts that students will see.

“In terms of the actual cuts that we’ve made, there’s very little that is actually going to impact students in SBE. They might not even notice,” she noted. “We’re going to have a few less TAs in BU111 and 121 and we’re going to switch from 10 labs back to something like seven, so it almost won’t be noticeable for the students.”

As well, the faculty plans to cut any classes smaller than 30 students. Since business and economics courses typically have larger numbers of students enrolled than comparable arts or science offerings, there should not be a substantial change.

Business professor Sofy Carayannopoulos pointed out that choice should not become an issue as only very specific courses with low demand will no longer be offered.

“There may have been an elective in the past that was a group of 12 students which may have been allowed to continue,” she pointed out. “But when you’re facing budget cuts you only have so many professors to put in front of students, so it would make sense that those classes may be cancelled. Those 12 students will still find another interesting class to take.”

Carayannopoulos stated that as demand remains high for the programs offered in SBE, the budget cuts are not taking as heavy a toll as elsewhere at Laurier.

On top of a few changes to classes, Dybenko said there would be some minor cost-cutting measures put in place. “Like everyone else, we’ve had to tighten our belts, there’s no question about it.

“We’ve done some internal streamlining: instead of staff and faculty getting a computer every three years, we’ll move it to every five years or something like that.”

The revenue generation that the faculty is depending on to counteract the cuts the rest of the university is experiencing will come in a few different forms.

There will be a focus on the master’s of business administration programs Laurier offers, including more flexible part-time MBAs tailored to employees at companies like Research in Motion. As well, SBE will offer continuing education certificate programs in executive development that will appeal to major local firms.

“Other schools make a ton of money [with these programs]; Queen’s, Schulich and those schools make well in excess of 10 million dollars every year in executive development,” Dybenko said.

When speculating about the threat of more substantial cuts in years to come, including a six per cent overall budget reduction for the 2011-12 academic year, Dybenko remained optimistic that revenue generation would continue to offset any ill-effects.

“I can’t talk about them yet because the ink hasn’t dried on the contracts yet, but we have some really interesting opportunities with RIM,” said Dybenko.

“We will have some constraints going forward but it’s just the same as how the economy and how the entire business community are struggling now with the economic downturn, no different.”

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