Reaction to Provincial Budget – Axworthy
Reaction to Provincial Budget – Statement by Dr. Lloyd Axworthy
President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Winnipeg
March 6, 2014
We appreciate the provincial government’s decision to increase our base grant by 2.5% for the coming year. We also applaud the intention to restructure COPSE which will be rolled into the Department of Education. We look forward to further conversations about how this will take place, and anticipate it will allow for more streamlined processes for us.
We are, however, disappointed that the real and ongoing inequity that exists within the Manitoba post-secondary system has not been addressed. Historically, the University of Winnipeg receives much less per student from the province. Our provincial grant in 2011 was the equivalent of $7,417 per student, whereas Brandon University and the University of Manitoba each received almost double that at $12,776 and $14,465 respectively per student.
UWinnipeg has been making do with less for a long time. The province is aware of this and has expressed an openness about talking to the University administration, faculty association and students’ association about this issue.
Manitoba’s tuition rates remain well below the Canadian average (only Quebec and Newfoundland have lower tuition rates), as a result of extended tuition freezes. This combination of an unfair grant and low tuition has led to a significant squeeze on our operating budget.
Doing more with less
In recent years, UWinnipeg has undergone an administrative reorganization that is now saving $700,000 annually. We have pursued vacancy management aggressively, offered employees voluntary days off without pay, frozen senior salaries and ended expensive leases. Even so, we will have to find or generate another $2 million in reductions for 2014-2015. UWinnipeg already posted deficits of $750,000 in 2011-2012 and $2.2 million in 2012-2013 due to increased defined benefit pension costs. The 2013-2014 budget also included a $2 million deficit related to increased pension costs. The University has had to borrow money to fund these deficits.
The University of Winnipeg’s role in particular has broadened. We are partners in downtown renewal, attracting more than $217 million in new development to the downtown and West End communities in past decade. It is important to note that capital projects such as our new buildings are funded by assertive fundraising and do not take money away from UWinnipeg’s operating budget. In fact, we are renting out more retail space on campus which helps our operating budget.
We have created strong community outreach programs to support First Nations, Metis and inner city youth, war-affected youth and new immigrants. The lion’s share of these new UWinnipeg programs are also funded through assertive fundraising in the private sector.
We have been successful. Enrolment at the University of Winnipeg has increased by 55% over the past twelve years as we become our city’s community university. Ironically, the more students we accept, the more our budget gap grows compared to other Manitoba universities since there is no connection between enrollment and government funding.
We look forward to serious discussions in the coming weeks with the province as we continue to seek redress. It is in the interest of all students, and most especially the many non-traditional students that we now attract, to close this funding gap.
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Diane Poulin, Senior Communications Specialist, The University of Winnipeg
P: 204.988.7135, E: firstname.lastname@example.org