Laurier looks ahead to budget cuts


budgé - joshua awolade onlineWilfrid Laurier University’s vice-president of finance and administration, Jim Butler, has confirmed there will be at least a five per cent cut from the university budget in the upcoming year.

All vice-presidents across the university have been asked to cut at least five per cent from their department’s budget, with the potential of a higher cut in the coming months. The additional amount will be determined once the enrolment levels for fall 2015 are estimated from the application rates.

“We’re entering a very challenging financial period,” said Butler. “For sure we need a five per cent cut. All vice-presidents have been asked to cut five per cent, but that’s just the start.”

In the summer, Butler asked all vice-presidents to model cuts of five, eight and 10 per cent in preparation for potential cuts. This allowed Laurier to be mindful for whichever cut is necessary.

The additional percentage of cut will be determined after the Jan. 14 application deadline for schools. This will give an approximate estimate of the amount of students Laurier should expect in fall 2015.

“That will give us a chance to say, ‘Okay, are the application rates up or down? Or are we holding our own?’ And then we’ll do some forecasting and determine how much further we need to cut.”

While the university is currently determining the amount that will be cut from the 2015-16 budget, it will also be forecasting the next three to four years. Butler said due to a shift in high school graduation rates, universities are being affected. This means Laurier will have to anticipate for the next three or four years the size the cuts they will need to make in order to meet their goal.

“We work on a three-year forecast, and it’s just getting worse. So we’re going to have to cut more than five per cent, it’s just a question of how much. And we’re going to wait and see what the application rates are like.”

Butler said in the next two weeks, administration will be sitting down and looking at the cuts vice-presidents are willing to make at the five per cent threshold.

He explained the combination of declining application rates, large pension costs, inflation, decreased operating grants from the government, deferred maintenance, restrictive government program approvals and the impact of the government’s new policy regarding program funding for faculties of education has created the “perfect storm” for university budgets.

On Dec. 16, Laurier released a statement explaining that Nipissing University will be winding down its education degree partnership with Laurier Brantford, finishing with the current cohort of students graduating in 2019. Due to provincial funding, Nipissing could not afford to maintain this program.

The withdrawal of Nipissing will affect enrolment at Laurier’s Brantford campus, which currently has about 800 students associated with the program.

“That will have an impact because Brantford was close to 3,000 students and all of a sudden you have to drop it. So that will hurt,” Butler explained.

Butler said the time frame for knowing the exact percentage of cut to the budget should be March or April.

“It’s trying to cut in a way that the mission and goals of the university are maintained,” he said. “It’s an evolving story.”

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