Questions regarding student services funding
At the April 22 McGill Senate meeting, Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) President Courtney Ayukawa, Vice-President University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan, Arts & Science Senator Chloe Rourke and Arts Senator Jacob Greenspon voiced concerns over the allocation of provincial government grants specified for student services in light of an $11 million budget cut imposed on McGill by the Liberals.
“Whereas, the Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) stated that in the event that the most recent budget cut by the Quebec government was above the $5-6 million projected by McGill, government grants designated as for ‘services for students’ that previously were distributed exclusively to Student Services may begin to be distributed to other student-serving units to protect the “core mission” of the University,” the question read. “Will government grants designated as for ‘services for students’ be disbursed to units beyond Student Services in 2015-16 given the most recent cut?”
In response, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens described the current financial state of McGill Student Services.
“We estimate that Student Services will close [fiscal year 2015] with a $100,000 surplus,” he explained. “Student Services is utilizing $1.5 million of the approximately $6 million surplus to fund [fiscal year 2016] operations. This use of the surplus is meant to cover all of the normal additional costs to operations as well as the government imposed cuts.”
Dyens continued to explain that the proposed redistribution of government grants to more general areas of student services was created to allow generalised services to continue existing despite provincial budget cuts.
“The government grant we receive is meant to fund services to students, […which] include units such as the Dean of Students, Service Point, Advising, the Libraries,” he explained. “If we face unsustainable [provincial budget ] cuts over the next few years, we may be forced to reallocate a portion of the government grant to ensure the viability of services to students. We would be able to do so only because Student Services has an accumulated surplus of more than $6 million. This is not a long-term solution and is only meant as a potential emergency measure to ensure that all services will be maintained.”
Provost Anthony Masi explained that the University had to respond to last-minute budget cuts from the Quebec government. Despite these cuts McGill managed a $4.3 million surplus for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. According to Masi, the University’s two fiscal priorities for the upcoming 2015-2016 will result in a project deficit for the year.
“We plan to honor all of the salary commitments that have been made, which will cost $22 million more next year,” Masi said, adding that McGill would also have to tackle maintenance needs. “In order to address those needs, The Board of Governors has approved a [proposal] to issue debt up to $400 million, to be repaid over a 40 year period.”
Masi continued to explain that future operating budgets will also be responsible for repaying capital as well as interest.
“In light of these burdens, the University has, for the first time in a decade, an annual deficit lower than that of the prior year,” explained Masi. “Unfortunately, due to these new budgetary impositions, the projection for the 2015-2016 fiscal year is a $4.7 million deficit.”