Open to Question

Concordia President Blames Swelling Classroom Sizes on Lack of Funding

On Sept. 17, Concordia President Judith Woodsworth said that her university’s reputation is on the rise.

Concordia’s growing reputation coincides with a climb in its financial debt, to which $500 million has been added in costs for new infrastructure over the past few years.

“[Something] we’ve given priority to is not just being good, but letting the world know that we’re good and publicizing the research and disseminating it” said Woodsworth during the first in a series of lectures called Open to Question.

Woodsworth reported that there was now almost a billion-dollar discrepancy between academic funding in Quebec and the rest of Canada.

“We are responsible and prudent in the way we’re managing our university.”
-Judith Woodworth,
Concordia President

“Some of that is because of [government] funding,” she said. “And some of it is because of tuition; and the students do not want a tuition increase, and I don’t blame them.”

According to Woodsworth, statistics show that a lack of funding has been at the root of the swell in classroom size. She claimed that higher tuition fees would help fight that problem and allow for better services.

Woodsworth also said that access to financial aid would increase alongside tuition, a catch-22.
The issue of the infrastructure-related debt was also acknowledged.

“We’ve managed to address the accumulating deficit. We’ve managed to develop a plan for repaying our long-term debt, which we had to incur to put up some of these buildings,” she said. “We are responsible and prudent in the way we’re managing our university.”

The correlation between the rise in tuition and the debt struck a chord with Concordia Student Union President Heather Lucas.

“Will the tuition money that is being raised be used to pay off the buildings?” asked Lucas. “And if not, what does the [money raised by tuition increase] go toward?”

Lucas was told not to worry, however, as the buildings were financed by the University’s capital budget, and not its operating budget, toward which tuition is put.

“You can be sure that the tuition is not going to go to paying for luxury suites for the president, or a squash court for the president, much as I’d like to have one,” said Woodsworth. “But it’s going to be used for the students and the academic enterprise.”

In spite of this outstanding debt and the lack of funding from Quebec, Woodsworth remained optimistic, citing a 28 per cent increase in outside funding to Concordia over the past five years.

Among some of the endeavours undertaken to elevate the university’s status is the building of the Perform Research Training and Outreach Center, run by the department of exercise science.

“We’re really excited because we think that that facility will really raise the stature of Concordia University and put us up there with other institutions that do health research and medical research,” said Woodsworth.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 06, published September 21, 2010.