Board Budget: Maintaining Enrolment Means Ongoing Financial Stability

board budget

Having sailed through the COVID-19 pandemic with surprisingly little negative effect on enrolment, St. Clair anticipates that 2021-22 will be another full-speed-ahead year - featuring another year-end, eight-digit budget surplus.

The college's Board of Governors (BofG) approved its 2021-22 budget during its March 23rd meeting.

(Like the provincial government, the college operates on a fiscal year of April 1 to March 31.)

Chief Financial Officer Marc Jones presented the financial forecast for the coming year to the Board.

With a week remaining in the current 2020-21 fiscal period at the time of the meeting, Jones still projected that St. Clair would conclude the year with a financial surplus of approximately $25.3 million (total revenues of $246.1 million, minus total expenditures of $220.8 million.)

He anticipates a similar economic situation in 2021-22: $280.6 million in total revenues, versus $253.3 million in expenditures, for another year-end surplus of $27.3 million.

Although many provincial funding grants are expected to continue to dip in the coming year, St. Clair's steady enrolment growth is projected to continue.

Jones based his tuition revenues on a slight two percent increase in domestic/Canadian student enrolment, and an ongoing influx of international students - 19 percent more global scholars, contributing an extra $12 million in revenue to the college in the coming year.

Also, growth is anticipated to continue at St. Clair's "sister school" in Toronto.

The Ace Acumen Academy is a private-sector school, that provides secondary school education and English-language training to immigrants (chiefly from Asia).

In the early years of this decade, it began searching for a public college that it could partner with, in order to provide its students with some follow-up - and on-site - postsecondary education opportunities.

After months of negotiation, in early 2014, it launched such a partnership with St. Clair.

Initially, with abundant academic oversight and licensing its curriculum to the private school, St. Clair offered two Ontario college diploma programs at Acumen's Toronto Campus: Business and Computer Systems Technician-Networking.

The on-site offerings proved so popular among Acumen's students that the program options expanded to include International Business Management, Social Service Worker-Gerontology, and Freight Forwarding.

Now with two campuses in Toronto, Acumen is expected to have 11 percent more students enrolled in 2021-22, adding $11 million to St. Clair's revenue.

The 2021-22 budget also includes an additional two-year financial forecast, with 2022-23 and 2023-24 projected to be just as rosy as the preceding several years. Jones has crystal-balled surpluses in each of those years of approximately $31.5 million.

The most fascinating aspect of the revenue stream is the gargantuan intake from tuition.

Ten years ago, tuition payments accounted for only 25 to 30 percent of the college's annual revenue. Today, the $167.8 million in anticipated 2021-22 tuition will represent almost 60 percent of the total revenues of $280.6 million.

The break-down: A projected 7,470 domestic students next year will contribute $24.5 million in tuition revenue; 4,620 international students at the Windsor and Chatham campuses will contribute $84.3 million (the college's largest single funding source); and 3,000 students at Ace Acumen Academy in Toronto will pay a total of $58.3 million in St. Clair tuition.

On the expenditure side of the ledger: Like enterprises of all sorts, public- and private-sector, the college's single largest operational cost is related to wages. St. Clair will spend almost $95.5 million on salaries and benefits for full- and part-time administrators, faculty and support staff next year, up from $87.6 million this year.

Another aspect of the college's budget is its Ancillary Operations. These include its non-academic, money-making services: parking pass sales, sports, and the convention/banquet business of the Centre for the Arts campus. Those cash-earners were soaked with red ink in 2020-21, due to business losses associated with the pandemic. Jones expects they may rebound somewhat this coming year as the pandemic eases, although he still anticipates a year-end deficit of about $345,000 in Ancillary Operations.

BUILDING AND FIXING

All these budgetary surpluses over the past several years ... What is the college doing with all of that "spare change"?

This year, it will be spending some of it.

Jones noted that reserve funds (the "piggy bank" created by those surpluses) will be injected into both the school's current capital/new building plans, and its "deferred maintenance" project-list of overdue repair projects.

The capital projects include the construction of Zekelman School of Business and I.T.'s new Academic Tower, and a beautified new entranceway to campus from Cabana Road (which is slated for reconstruction by city council within the next year or so.) Some of it, also, will go towards the ongoing efforts to expand parking space availability on campus.

FIDDLING WITH FEES

Tuition rates will not be increasing for any students, domestic or international, in 2021-22.

Some added-on-to-tuition fees will, however, be rising, following negotiations between the administration and student organizations [the Student Representative Council (SRC), Thames Students Incorporated (TSI) and the Saints-Student Athletic Association (SSAA)]. Those changes include:

• Student Buildings Operating Fee – Windsor: Annual fee increased from $125 to $160. The increase will offset additional costs related to the Student Centre upgrades, new eSports arena, etc.;

• Student Buildings Operating Fee – Chatham: Annual fee increased from $75 to $100. The increase will offset additional costs related to the Student Centre, food services, etc.;

• Athletics and Recreation Operating Fee: Annual fee increased from $175 to $180. The increase will offset additional costs related to the new Sports Park. In addition, the fee will be split 70/30 college/SSAA. Previously, the fee was shared 67/33 college/SSAA;

• Health Insurance Fee: Domestic student health insurance increases from $300 to

$310 (Fall) and $232 to $237 (Winter);

• International student health insurance increases from $745 to $750 (Fall), $535 to $540 (Winter) and $335 to $340 (Spring). The increase offsets the costs associated with COVID-19 testing;

• Academic Support Fee (Windsor and Chatham): The fee will be split 30/70 college/student government (SRC and TSI). Previously, the fee was shared 35/65;

• Campus Safety Fee: Annual fee decreased from $25 to $15;

• Career Services: Annual fee decreased from $20 to $10;

• Essential Membership Fees: SRC Membership Fee increased from $50 to $70. TSI Membership Fee increased from $50 to $60.

A word about that last one, the “essential” ­– currently mandatory – membership fees paid to operate the SRC at Windsor campuses (and Ace Acumen too), and the TSI at the Chatham campus …

… A couple of years ago, the provincial Conservative government implemented the Student Choice Initiative (SCI). That was a controversial piece of legislation that declared that because some students don’t make use of – or even disgreed with – some of the programs and services offered by student councils at colleges and universities, they should be allowed to opt-out of paying such fees.

In the first year of the SCI, a massive publicity campaign staged by the SRC and TSI to promote their many services led a huge majority to students to continue to pay what had become a non-mandatory membership fee. Additionally, recognizing that the student councils had (over the years) begun to deliver many essential campus services either on their own or in partnership with campus departments, the college’s administration separated out some of the previous SRC/TSI fee revenues, redesignated them as separate essential fees, and redirected those revenues back to the councils.

In November of 2019 (less than a year after it had been introduced), the SCI was struck down by an Ontario Divisional Court because it had trod upon the independent operation of both student associations and the schools themselves.

As the BofG was conducting its March meeting, the provincial government was back in court, appealing that initial judicial decision.

Depending upon the outcome of that court case, the SCI may come back into force.

Until then, however, St. Clair students will be required to pay the “essential” (mandatory) SRC and TSI fees.

SEE THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS MEETING STORY ABOUT THE COLLEGE’S STRATEGIC DIRECTIONS FOR THE COMING YEAR: http://stclair-src.org/news/need-know-news/what-were-doing-where-were-going-next-year

SEE THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS MEETING STORY ABOUT BUILDING “EXPERENTIAL LEARNING” INTO ALL OF THE COLLEGE’S PROGRAMS: http://stclair-src.org/news/need-know-news/college-strives-instill-real-world-experience-all-programs

SEE THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS MEETING STORY ABOUT VARSITY ATHLETIC PERFORMANCES DURING THE PAST YEAR: http://stclair-src.org/news/need-know-news/no-games-lots-activity-varsity-saints