Debt mountain: Concordia’s mounting money troubles

An in-depth analysis of Concordia University’s financial situation

Concordia University has a big issue brewing. This isn’t about exams or assignments, but about money—lots of it. The university’s financial statement for 2022-2023, along with their budget planning for 2023-2024, shows that it is deep in debt, which could cause serious challenges going forward.

Here is the deal: Concordia owes a ton of money, with payments due from now until 2059. This debt comes from government loans and a financial instrument called Senior Unsecured Debentures, which are big loans taken by the company or organization without offering any of their assets. 

Think of Senior Unsecured Debentures as an I-owe-you or a big promise to pay back money. The “unsecured” part means that if Concordia cannot pay, they have not promised to give anything specific in return, such as a building or equipment. This means Concordia is juggling a lot of financial promises for a long time.

To address concerns about the university’s ability to manage this debt, Concordia’s CFO, Denis Cossette, explains that debt is normal for educational institutions. For comparison, Concordia has a debt of $274 million against annual revenues of about $613 million. McGill University, with total liabilities of $4.211 billion, reports annual revenues of approximately $1.661 billion. 

This demonstrates a substantial financial structure to manage their liabilities. The University of Toronto, in contrast, has $895 million in debt against a much higher annual revenue of $4.3 billion. These numbers highlight that while debt is common in universities, the amount of debt relative to their income varies.

Adding to this, the university ended the 2022-2023 fiscal year with a $38.8 M deficit and has a net long-term debt of $274 M. They are also managing a hefty $162 M in lines of credit carrying past operating losses, emphasizing the gravity of their financial situation.

While Concordia offers a lively hub for its students, it also promises to take care of its staff, even after they retire, by providing plans for pensions and retirement benefits. However, these promises are like a big jar that Concordia must keep filling with money, which can be tough when there are many other expenses.

Balancing debt and keeping the university running smoothly is a tricky act, but Concordia has a plan for managing and paying for its big-ticket items such as buildings and tech equipment. For this situation, they have set up something called “sinking funds.” This is a fancy way of saying that the university is attempting to put money aside regularly to make sure they can manage these major expenses.

For the 2023-2024 fiscal year, Concordia is facing an uphill battle with projected total revenues of $613 M against expenses of $653.7 M. This means they are expecting yet again to spend more than they earn, furthering their financial strains.

Another significant concern is the potential drop in student numbers in light of the changes to tuition costs, as international and out-of-province student fees are increasing significantly. This could reduce the university’s revenue, adding to their financial woes. 

Cossette mentioned the creation of the Canada Scholar Awards Out-of-Province Awards, aiming to maintain accessibility for out-of-province students in response to these tuition hikes.

Due to these various issues, the university faces various kinds of financial risks. There’s credit risk, the danger that someone Concordia lent money to might not pay it back; market risk, when changes in interest rates or currency values can disturb Concordia’s finances; and liquidity risk, the risk that Concordia might not have enough cash when it needs it.

Investments and endowments are another significant aspect of Concordia’s money management. Endowments are large monetary gifts given to the university by individuals, but often have rules about how they should be used. Managing this money wisely is crucial for maintaining Concordia’s overall financial health. 

Concordia also makes money through other services such as retail stores, student residences and parking. But even with those extra sources of income, the big debt problem is not going away anytime soon.

To tackle these issues, Concordia has implemented measures such as freezing the salaries of top executives, continuing a hiring freeze for non-academic staff, and using reserve funds to reduce the current-year deficit. They also plan to strategically reduce expenses, such as payments to the pension deficit and managing non-critical activities, to create structural financial capacity. 

This could involve a more judicious approach to discretionary spending, optimizing administrative processes to reduce overheads, and postponing non-essential infrastructure upgrades or expansions. 

The university also relies heavily on grants and contributions, especially from the government. This can be compared to an allowance or financial support from family in that changes in support can really disturb the university.

Additionally, Cossette states, “We don’t anticipate issuing new long-term debt in the near future.” This approach is a part of Concordia’s strategy to minimize further financial strain and manage its existing obligations more effectively.

Concordia also has some ongoing legal issues and other commitments that come at financial cost.

What does all this mean for Concordia? It means that the university is at a crossroads where it needs to make some smart decisions about its money. The way it handles its debts and plans for the future will affect everyone at the university—students, faculty, and staff.


The rollercoaster of being an international student

International students are thriving in the midst of adversity.

Montreal is known for being one of the best student cities in North America. With its beautiful diversity, universities in both English and French and a vibrant environment, students from around the world often decide to move to Canada. However, how far is reality from the outside picture? 

Many international students have struggled to secure affordable student housing while still in their country. Some got lucky and found a room in the on-campus student residence, but those on the waiting list who never got a spot had to quickly find an alternative before they arrived. With the rent increase, students are left with the option of either living in a neighborhood that requires over an hour of commute to class or squeezing in with strangers in a small apartment close to campus.

“It was very difficult to find a place to rent because many scammers on Facebook groups were advertising fake houses”, says Haeri Jang, an international student from South Korea. Students from abroad have been scapegoated for housing shortage for the longest time. 

Universities should be mindful of the international students’ residency before giving admissions to thousands. For example, Concordia University collaborated with three off-campus student residencies, YWCA, EVO and Campus1 MTL, to ensure that as many Concordia students as possible have a place to stay.

Another issue that international students face is the increase in tuition fees. The Quebec fees have increased by 3 per cent compared to 2022. International students are charged over thrice the fee Canadians and permanent residents pay per semester. The fees that international students pay consist of the Quebec rate, the international supplement and a 10 per cent international supplement. Concordia University offers scholarships and bursaries to help international students fund their studies. Students can also apply for scholarships funded by EduCanada through their website.

Having started my journey at Concordia University as an international student in 2019, I can confidently say that Concordia has given me all the tools I needed to navigate through the semester and my personal life. The service that has been the most beneficial to me is counseling. I have had eight consecutive sessions with one of the psychologists at Concordia to help me with social anxiety and I have learned many strategies to cope with anxious feelings.

I lived most of my life in Nigeria and Lebanon, and I remember constantly feeling agitated because I always thought my future was doomed. Ever since my move to Canada, the endless opportunities that have presented to myself have truly helped me truly pushed me out of my comfort zone. As a result, my confidence in social situations has improved tremendously.

The path of leaving your country of origin is complex, and it comes with many tears, losses, pain and sacrifices. In the long term, I firmly believe that it will be worth it because we are now given the opportunity to grow in ways we didn’t have back home. 

One of the main struggles that international students face when living in a bilingual city is being unable to communicate in French. This also raises the question of whether they are willing to work in Quebec after graduating since French is mandatory. 

Steven Ye, majoring in political science, says that he is currently learning French alone, and he has been getting some help from his French friends. Ye is presently applying to part-time jobs and hopes to get one in an anglophone area.

International students at Concordia have access to all services offered by the International Student Office (ISO) in the GM building downtown. Some of the services are getting legal advice, renewing CAQ and study permits, orientations and workshops on immigration. 

Aimee Becerril, a studio art student from Mexico, says that the ISO and the John Molson International Committee in John Molson have been the most helpful. The conference held by the JIC helped Becerril learn how to open a bank account, use the STM and gain money management tips, especially regarding grocery shopping.

Studying abroad sounds like a dream to many. The journey starts by feeling homesick, scared, and confused. Then, it continues with questioning our identity and sense of belonging. Finally, after years of going through a series of culture shock, language barriers, and evolving in a new environment, international students will later realize that they are stronger than they think and have what it takes to overcome any obstacle.

Student Life

Jad does things! Wearing all black

Hi! I’m Jad Abukasm, News Editor at The Concordian, and in this segment, Kayla runs my life!

[Upbeat music]

Kayla did not tell me why I was supposed to wear all black until the very last day of the challenge.

“It’s an experiment. I want to see something,” she texted me.

“So, I’m your guinea pig?” I replied.


I think that from now on, Kayla won’t hesitate to try weird stuff on me and I’m kind of questioning why I got involved in this…

I own a total of two black shirts and one pair of black jeans. Do the math and you quickly realize that 1) I will be wearing the same jeans all week, and 2) that I quickly need to find three shirts or else I will end up smelling like my running shoes. My dad was kind enough to lend me two of his shirts—that, by the way, look bomb on me—resulting in re-wearing the same shirt only once. At least I have a bunch of black socks and a new pair of black Vans.

During the week, I tried finding out why the hell Kayla would ask me to do this. I went online and discovered some not-so-reliable scientific websites that mentioned people wearing black either experienced high levels of anxiety and sadness or that they have mysterious and “sexy” personalities (whatever that means). Am I surprised? Yes. Am I more so confused? Yes.

During the week, I noticed that I got a lot of compliments on my outfits and people told me I looked on top of my sh*t. I was only wearing a black shirt tucked into black pants—but I didn’t complain **insert sassy emoji.**

Friday comes and Kayla texts me “I wanted to know if wearing all black would affect your mood, especially with the socks because I know you use those as a form of self-expression,” and this was when everything started to make sense. I realized that throughout the week, I was feeling so much more confident and less self-conscious, to Kayla’s surprise. I think that I used to try matching my personality to my outfits which would only result in me stressing about what others thought about my appearance. Wearing all black in contrast to my vibrant personality really made for an interesting duality.

Now, the big question: will I keep doing this? Obviously, wearing all black every day was fun and empowering, but I also own three times as many other clothes that I love. However, what I really learned here is that clothes don’t define who you are and you shouldn’t use them as self-expression if it is a source of stress. From now on, I will think less about matching my clothes to my character and just be myself. And yes, I did go to Marshalls and Winners on Friday to buy more black shirts.

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

Jad Does Things: Journaling

Hi! I’m Jad Abukasm, News Editor at The Concordian, and in this segment, Kayla runs my life!

[Upbeat music] 

Before I start, I need to confess that I always thought journaling was lame before this week. When Kayla told me to do it, I was more pissed than the cold showers. Fifteen minutes a day writing what happened during my day? No thank you; I’ve lived it once and I don’t need to rub in my face how I made a fool of myself once again.

Surprisingly enough–just like with every other Jad Does Things challenges–journaling taught me plenty of things!

Day 1:

I genuinely had no idea what to write about, so I decided to just write my whole day down. I also ended up writing down all the meals I ate and calculating if I ate enough calories. Kayla never told me exactly what she meant by journaling!

Day 2:

I did the same as day one but in a medieval setting. My family and I were in Quebec city so the old city made for a good mise en scène.

Day 3:

I was feeling down that day so I decided to write about it. I didn’t mention my day, just what I was feeling and why. It actually made me feel a lot better.

Day 4:

As the person with the emotional capacity of a teaspoon that I am, I found an old journal I had lost a few years ago and changed it to my personal “Jad Figures Out Stuff (Finally)” journal. In it, I started jotting down recurring behaviours I had that were either funny, problematic or had to work on.

Day 5:

Jad Figures Out Stuff (Finally) has now a good ten pages…

Overall, journaling has shown me that it can be about anything. It’s putting aside a little time of the day to think about yourself and facing situations you otherwise wouldn’t think about. Feeling happy, sad, overwhelmed, anxious; journaling is an easy starting point in talking about it. Will I keep doing it? Maybe not every day but definitely a few times a week. In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m already thinking of the new addition to Jad Figures Out Stuff (Finally)!

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

Jad Does Things! Cold showers

Hi! I’m Jad Abukasm, News Editor at The Concordian, and in this segment, Kayla runs my life!

[Upbeat music]

When it comes to being comfortable, I am the pinnacle of sassy. Some might say I resemble Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man. In other words, I am a lazy bean that is fully satisfied with all the superficial stuff I own. Laying on the sofa with hot tea and a warm blanket all day? YES PLEASE! So, when I heard Kayla tell me the next challenge is ice cold showers for a week, my first instinct was “EFF THAT!” 

Results from thorough online research showed me the benefits of bathing in freezing water. Apparently, cold showers promote blood circulation, better focus, better immune response and increased alertness, to name a few.

As a lazy person with the attention span of a goldfish, this sounded like a crazy good solution for me. But were the costs that beneficial? Let’s find out.

Day 1 and 2:

The first two days were horrible. I jumped into the challenge by starting under the lowest water temperature which resulted in my skin turning red and hurting for the next few hours. Other editors told me to stop the challenge, but my ego took over. I couldn’t stand this challenge. I was kind of pissed all the time. I kept counting the days remaining, already looking forward to the challenge being over. 

Day 3 onwards:

After my first two failed attempts, I took a new approach. I started under a slightly uncomfortable temperature and slowly reduced the heat every 10 or so seconds with the last minute at the coldest setting. This changed my whole perspective on ice cold showers. Just like that, I felt well awake, ready to tackle the day full of energy and, as weird as it might sound, I felt empowered. 

I think the fact that humans created their habitat with comfort as their bedrock made us rationalize comfort and despise everything else. Forcing me to put myself in a situation of discomfort made me appreciate my surroundings. I kept repeating to myself, it’s just cold water. It’s not like I’m being chased by an enraged mammoth, under a snowstorm with splinters all over my feet. After all, this was what our bodies were originally meant to do.

I immediately called Kayla and said: “Change of plans, I’m doing ice cold showers for two weeks!” I wanted to push myself to find out how I was suddenly loving something that I hated only a day before. 

A lot of things changed. The most noticeable was my relationship to the cold. Prior to the challenge, I couldn’t stand it one bit. However, I quickly realized that I was now enjoying the feeling of cold air breezing on my shaved head and little tingles in my fingers. I wasn’t as cold as before, and I hardly felt uncomfortable outside, even for long periods of time. My runny nose and sore throat went away for good. I started feeling way more focused and mindful of my surroundings. Finally, my recovery time from training reduced quite a bit. 

My takeaways from this challenge are that, as much as we like our everyday comfort, regularly inducing slight discomfort can go a long way. We learn to appreciate the little things that have become second nature.

I highly recommend taking ice cold showers to anyone who wants to give it a shot. Go at your own rhythm and find your groove and get informed before starting the challenge. Many people quit after their first attempt because they do not proceed properly and get discouraged—like my first two attempts. Who knows? You might add it to your daily routine like I’ve started doing!

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

Jad Does Things! 300 squats a day

Hi! I’m Jad Abukasm, News Editor at The Concordian, and in this new segment, Kayla runs my life!

[Upbeat music]

This week, Kayla challenged me to do 300 squats every day for a week. Here is how it went down.

Day 1:

Today was great! I managed to do my squats in 17 minutes which is very good considering I haven’t properly trained in two months. The workout went smoothly since I divided everything into three sets of 150, 100 and 50, respectively.

Day 2: 

I didn’t have time to do all my squats before my classes so I ended up stacking them little by little throughout the day either in Faubourg’s bathrooms or hidden somewhere in the library. Yes, there was awkward eye contact…

Day 3: 

I donated blood today and the nurse told me there’s no way I could do my squats… Kayla is kind of disappointed.

Day 4:

After the radio show, I finished my squats in The Concordian’s office, divided into four sets of 75, 75, 100 and 50 squats. Honestly, I think I should have taken the day off after my blood donation. I was breathing heavily, felt dizzy at some points, and gosh did it hurt. I managed to finish in 16 minutes though!

Day 5:

I came back home very late after covering an event so I needed to find a way to squat as fast as possible. I did 10 sets of 30 squats and finished in an amazing 15 minutes!

Day 6-7:

Squatting doesn’t hurt anymore! I’m waking up without any soreness which is great! It was way easier during these last two days.

Overall, I think squatting every day is not about the number of squats you do, nor the time it takes, but more the fact of reserving a certain time of the day to do physical activity or practice self-care. I felt well awake throughout the day and, although my legs were burning while using the stairs, I think I will keep awkwardly air squatting whenever I’m not working out. Maybe not 300 a day, but at least a few! After all, my glutes look way rounder now!

Graphic by @sundaeghost


Tide Pods: From laundry to brainwashing

Social media challenges highlight a deeper issue within today’s meme culture

Over the last three weeks, a new challenge has emerged on social media called the “Tide Pod Challenge.” It quickly became a meme online, as many people made jokes about eating the colourful detergent packets. Despite the danger and the laundry brand telling people not to eat the pods, many people—mostly teenagers—continue to videotape themselves eating Tide Pods.

The first time I heard about a challenge on social media was the 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge, and it was for a good cause. Since then, many new dares have emerged on the internet, and in my opinion, many of them are stupid. With the Tide Pod Challenge specifically, teenagers record themselves biting into the packets in order to gain views, recognition and popularity on social media.

You’re probably reading this thinking the same thing as me: this challenge is just stupid and dangerous. People are ingesting toxins by intentionally eating Tide Pods. In 2017, before the challenge even began, more than 10,500 children under the age of five and 220 teens were exposed to Tide Pods, and about 25 per cent of those cases were intentional, according to the Washington Post.

Perhaps we can understand why very young children might be attracted to the colour and the pleasant smell of Tide Pods, but I for one cannot understand why a teenager—who can make reasonable choices—is compelled to do the same. So why are they doing this? I believe I might have an answer.

Recently, our society has entered an era characterised by social media and meme culture. This facet of culture has been defined by Richard Dawkins, in his book The Selfish Gene, as “an element of a culture or system of behaviour that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by non-genetic means, especially imitation.” In today’s culture, memes and social media are the diffusers of ideas within the online world, and they are limitless. Anyone can find anything on any subject online. It is a beautiful and useful tool, or a dangerous one—especially for people who are easily influenced, such as teenagers.

The problem is that, in our era of social media, the border between public and private life is slowly being erased. Every time we log on to a social media platform, such as Instagram or Facebook, we see people sharing idealistic pictures and videos of their everyday lives.

Even if most social media users understand that these perfect images do not reflect real life, I believe many teenagers can be influenced by these people, which lead them to constantly pursue views, likes and perfection online.

These teenagers, therefore, will follow a trend not because it is something they think is valuable and useful, but because they think it is the first step to celebrity and popularity. However, reality often catches up to them, but perhaps too late, when their lives are endangered. They hope to become celebrities, but often become known on a small scale, limited to their neighbourhood news or the emergency medical services.

Fortunately, Tide has quickly reacted to the challenge by creating advertisements that show the dangerous effects of eating their products. Yet it doesn’t seem to be enough as more intentional cases of Tide Pod ingestion are reported every day (already 39 since the beginning of the year, 91 per cent of which were intentional), according to the Washington Post.

I believe social media perpetuates meme culture, and teenagers in this culture suffer potential brainwashing from online trends. Unfortunately, most teenagers today cannot be themselves without thinking about what they have to do in order to be liked and loved in their virtual community.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth 

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