October 15, 2023 3:00 pm Media Release
Vancouver Island University’s deficit woes are not because of tuition revenues, says Faculty Association
Vancouver Island University is anticipating a budgetary deficit of $16M for the 2023-24 year, according to the University’s Deficit Mitigation Plan, published on the University’s website, and employees have been told to expect that it will likely be a $20M deficit when the second quarter finances are reported. This follows three previous years of deficit, and will contribute to accumulated debt of $49M. The University has pointed to enrolment as the primary underlying reason, but the VIU Faculty Association (VIUFA) says that is not where the problems lie.
“The University says they made conservative enrollment increase projections for their budgets – increases of 1% in the number of undergraduate and 17% in the number of graduate registrations, in the academic programs that our members teach. Instead, academic registration growth in the Fall has exceeded those estimates — up 3.4% for the undergrads, and 37% for the graduate students,” said Gara Pruesse, President of VIUFA. “This is good news.”
“We heard from senior administrators early this week that the drastic budget problem we face today has been at least a decade in the making,” said Jean Blackburn, Chair of VIUFA’s University Budget Analysis Committee. “We are shocked and profoundly concerned. It’s clear that below-expected enrollments of the last couple of years are not the only culprit here. Fall 2023 registration data show a healthy increase in enrolments over this time last year and all of these new and returning students expect an exceptional educational experience. We are very worried about how the proposed across-the-board cuts will affect course offerings and essential academic supports at VIU.”
“VIU faculty care deeply about our university and our students,” Blackburn added. “We are community members and taxpayers as well, and we recognize VIU’s importance to our region. VIU’s strengths are its small class sizes and expert, caring faculty and staff. It is imperative that high-quality, accessible education is prioritized as we work with our colleagues in administration to get VIU back on track. Our students deserve no less.”
The University community has been told that pandemic disruption has exposed past deficiencies in planning and decision making. “We appreciate that the current administration has identified these issues and is preparing to build better management infrastructure and administrative processes. Faculty are also keen to see improvement and to make essential contributions to effective governance. We are very concerned that the deficit mitigation proposed in the Plan will undermine VIU’s ability to deliver programs,” Pruesse added. She has reviewed the Deficit Mitigation Plan, and she is dismayed by the drastic cuts proposed over three years. “Academic units will be slashed by $10M, according to the plan. I think the Administration should first figure out why our bottom line is getting worse while our student enrolments are growing. And it should work with faculty and staff to analyze and plan for future demand, so the University doesn’t cut away the very things that attract students here and makes their learning journey successful – the faculty, the courses, the programs, and the university experience.”