Recovering from Austerity Cuts, Concordia Moves Towards a Balanced Budget

After $90 Million in Cuts Over Seven Years, University Hopes to Recover by 2023

With increased funding from the Liberal government since 2017 and a surge in admission rates, Concordia’s budget is projected to be balanced by next year. File Photo Claire Loewen

With increased funding from the Liberal government since 2017 and a surge in admission rates, Senior Director of Financial Planning and Budgets Jean-François Hamel said Concordia’s budget is projected to be balanced by next year.

It’s a bounce back from austerity budget cuts that plagued the province in 2015. Over the course of 2010 and 2017, Hamel estimates that cuts to Concordia’s budget amounted to $90 million

In the 2015-2016 school year, Concordia’s deficit stood at $9.3 million, but this year it’s projected to stand at $1.9 million. The school first started running a deficit in 2012–the same year the provincial government attempted to hike tuition for Quebec students before backing down amid widespread protests and student strikes.

“It’s a deficit reduction of about 80 per cent over that period, which we’re quite proud of,” Hamel told The Link “A lot of people in the university had to work hard in order to achieve these results.”

A lighter deficit has come as the provincial government is investing more in higher education.

In the 2017-2018 school year, the government spent $2.9 billion for university funding across the province. This year Quebec universities will get $3.1 billion, an increase of $173 million compared to the year prior. Out of that pie Concordia will see $320 million, a $4.3 million increase from the year before.

The balanced budget is still only a projection. The loss of Saudi students stemming from study bans by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia could also throw a wrench in things.

“We’re still unsure what will be happening to Saudi Arabia students, so we’re still awaiting what will be the financial impact,” said Chief Financial Officer Denis Cossette.

And though the university is inching towards a balanced budget, it would be a stretch to say they’ve recovered from seven years of cuts.

“We’re expecting for this year that the total reinvestment [from seven years of cuts] will equal $12.7 million,” said Hamel. “They’ve re-invested about 14 per cent of what they’ve cut in our budget over the past decade.”

“From what we’ve seen now from what they’ve put in place, by the end of 2023 we may recuperate everything that they’ve cut from us,” Hamel continued.

That estimate is based on a six year funding promise by the Liberal government, but if they don’t secure office by Oct. 1 it’s yet to be seen whether the next government will stay on board.

Cosette and Hamel said higher admission rates and their voluntary retirement program have also helped.

“We’ve continued to grow where other universities are not growing as fast,” said Cossette. “We have more graduate programs, so we’re able to create appetite for more students to come here.”

Since 2010 the number of graduate students increased to 19 per cent, and at the same time there was an 18 per cent increase in international students. The school expects to see about 46,000 students this year.

“We’re not in the same situation as other universities where there’s been a decline [in admissions],” said Hamel. “We’ve had a significant growth in population for the past two years, which is against the tide in regards to the situation across Quebec.”

The Link originally wrote that the number of graduate students increased by 19 per cent since 2010. They actually increased to 19 per cent of the student population. The Link apologizes for the error.