BofG Sees A Black-Inked Mid-Year Budget Update

midyear budget

Half-way through its fiscal year, St. Clair College is in somewhat better financial shape than it was at the same point in the previous year.

During the October 27th meeting of the college’s Board of Governors (BofG), Vice-President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer Marc Jones presented the six-month review of the school’s ledgers, as of September 30. (The college’s fiscal year, like that of the provincial government, runs from April 1 to March 31.)

Jones’ report noted that the college is currently showing a budgetary surplus of $892,002 as of September 30.

At the same six-month date last year, the college was running a budgetary deficit of just over $1.8 million.

St. Clair concluded its 2019-20 fiscal year with a surplus of $31 million.

According to the 2020-21 budget, approved by the BofG in March, it anticipates concluding this fiscal year with a surplus of approximately $23.4 million.

At its September meeting, Jones told the BofG that the pandemic’s ongoing impact might affect the year-end number, but he is still anticipating a surplus of between $18 and 23 million – with a worst-case scenario of $13 million, and a best-case one of $30 million.

It appears – remarkably – that the college’s financial prognostications will not be unduly affected by the COVID situation, despite the fact that the budget was set just as the outbreak was making its way to Canada. As such, it did not include a great many doomy-and-gloomy scenarios or forecasts, because the impact of the pandemic could not really be accurately predicted at that time …

… Doomy-and-gloomy scenarios which, as it turned out, have not arisen.

St. Clair, unlike a great many postsecondary institutions in Canada, has not seen its enrolment dip as a result of COVID. In fact, its enrolment has increased.

As President Patti France noted in a recent update to college staff:

In total, at all campuses, our Fall 2020 full-time postsecondary enrolment is a record 13,907 (recently revised to 13,885), up from 12,817 in Fall 2019.

Yes, the dip at our Windsor Campuses (down about seven percent) was somewhat unfortunate; but, frankly, it is less severe than I had thought it might have been. I thought the impact of the pandemic might be much more damaging to both domestic enrolment (because of lost summer employment opportunities) and our international enrolment (due to disrupted capacity for travel).

CERB and other special student funding programs (in response to the pandemic) did help many domestic students who, otherwise, might have had to forego their enrolment plans this year.

And our international enrolment remained quite strong, as many students did proceed with their enrolments, and are currently studying on-line in their homelands as they await the opportunity to make their way here. That, indeed, should be possible over the next few months, as St. Clair meets new federal/provincial guidelines to permit educational immigration to Canada.

There is no denying the fact, however, that it is our public/private partnership with the Ace Acumen Academy that truly provided us with some much-needed stability during this otherwise chaotic year.

(Ace Acumen 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, Human Resoruces Management, Office Administration – Health Services, Social Service Worker-Gerontology, and Data Analytics for Business. Ace Acumen expanded too. It now has two campuses in the Toronto area, both offering St. Clair programs – and more than doubled its enrolment, to 2,699 this year.)

[With adult training programs and apprenticeships added, St. Clair is currently serving 15,401 students this semester – up from 14,424 in the fall of 2019.]

France’s memo to staff added: As I informed the Board of Governors during its September meeting, we appear to be one of the few postsecondary schools in the province that saw an enrolment increase this year; and, arising from that, we appear to be one of the few that appears capable of concluding our fiscal year (in March of next year) with “black ink” on the bottom line.

It is the surprisingly stable enrolment and associated tuition fees, plus some moderate increases in provincial grants, which have led to solid revenues during the first half of the fiscal year, Jones reported.

Simultaneously, cost controls on the expenditures side have also contributed to the mid-year, bottom-line black ink.

ENROLMENT TIDBITS

Also during the meeting, Registrar and Associate Vice-President of Student Services Mike Silvaggi presented the official fall enrolment numbers (discussed above).

In addition to the program-by-program and campus-by-campus population numbers, he provided several snapshots of the college’s current demographics, including these:

• Our international students hail from 65 nations. India is, far-and-away, the largest source country of our global scholars – 6,197 students from there. China is second with 324, followed by Nigeria with 43. Rounding out the “top ten” are Vietnam, South Korea, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Iran and the Philippines;

• Of first-year students this fall, 54.3 percent come from Windsor-Essex, 5.5 percent from Chatham-Kent, 9.5 from other parts of Ontario, about one percent from other provinces, and the remainder are of international origin;

• 57 percent of this year’s first-year students are female, up from 53 percent last year;

• 82 percent of first-year students are under 25 years of age, 58 percent are under 21.

Following up on France’s and Jones’ previous comments about the enrolment/financial damage caused to other colleges by the pandemic, Silvaggi noted that St. Clair had the fourth highest enrolment increase of Ontario’s two dozen public colleges. Many others suffered double-digit-percentage enrolment declines. Ontario-wide, with most school now reporting their numbers, college enrolment has dropped by just over 11 percent since last year – from 276,500 in September of 2019 to 245,500 in 2020.

Silvaggi also told the BofG that enrolment should be bolstered further in the New Year. Even though most of them will, still, be studying on-line – perhaps still remotely in their home-lands – January-intake enrolment for programs with mid-year starts is expected to attract 2,100 new students to St. Clair (most of them international).