In December, the Parti Québécois slashed $124 million in post-secondary funding with only a few months left in the academic year for universities. For Concordia, this means that the institution must incur a loss of $13.2 million.
In an interview with The Concordian, President Alan Shepard said he plans to recommend a deficit to the university’s highest governing body because Concordia has little choice.
“I will be recommending to the Board of Governors a deficit in the upcoming school year,” said Shepard. “I don’t like deficits; I think they are not good but in this case it’s inevitable.”
Shepard stated that after recommending the deficit, the Board of Governors still must approve it.
With Concordia potentially claiming a shortfall in the wake of its fourth revised budget in just under eight months, Shepard believes the most important aspect is to ensure Concordia has a stable and secure funding on a long-term basis.
Furthermore, Shepard said he believes the provincial government will be reimbursing universities for part of the loss of money stemming from the cancellation of the tuition fee increase initially slated by the Charest Liberals.
“They [the government] said they will make it up and we calculated a number,” said Shepard. “We estimated $3 million and we are counting on that money coming in.”
During a Senate meeting on Dec. 8, Shepard informed faculty and students that the multi-million dollar budget cut would likely affect the university “across the board” due to its size and with only four months left in the academic year.
University spokesperson Chris Mota explained that while a deficit is impending, it is not sure how much will be claimed.
“We will be feeling it everywhere,” said Mota. “The sectors that will feel it a tiny bit less are academics and research.”
Mota added that the budget cut of $13.2 million this late in the year is the equivalent of Concordia having to initially slash its annual budget by $45 million and that, unfortunately, “everyone will be affected.”
On Monday, the administration held community sessions closed to the media to address the provincial government’s decision and how to move forward as a university. Patrick Kelley, the university’s chief financial officer, said that he does not know how much Concordia will claim as a deficit.
“We had planned on a very small surplus but there have been a series of continuous reductions in tuition amounts and revenues,” said Kelley. “We’re working furiously looking at our numbers to see the size of what the deficit will be, but I cannot tell you with precision where we are.”
Kelley also confirmed that the PQ will be handing over anywhere between $3.4 million to $4 million to the university for all the losses incurred this year but the government has yet to confirm a date or clarify the amount.
Interim-Provost Lisa Ostiguy said that Concordia has been working closely with other universities to discuss strategies on how to handle massive slashes to the budget. The different faculty members and staff at the university have also been working together to ensure the cuts do not affect the quality of the institution.
“There’s been no backlash and we’ve been quite taken at how everyone is committed with this,” said Ostiguy. “It takes the full commitment of the whole university.”
President Schubert Laforest of the Concordia Student Union felt that the university does not have a choice considering the amount of time that is left in the school year.
“No one wants a deficit but I can see why they’re requesting one, given the context, since we can’t cut programs or other fundings at this point,” said Laforest. “There’s always many ways to approach a situation but given the time, it would be hard to have an ideal situation.”
Kelly said that it is too early to know if these cuts will affect the operating budget for next year but that the main concern is if the the provincial government will continue to do it in the future.
With files from Marilla Steuter-Martin