Provost addresses budget 

By Karen Herland

While debates rage on about the crisis in higher education and the financial stresses on universities, Provost and Vice-President Academic Affairs David Graham has had some tough decisions to make — 4 million of them.

With provincial funding lagging behind salary increases built into existing collective agreements, frozen tuition fees and no new sources of revenue on the horizon, Concordia is facing deficit budgeting. “[The deficit] is very small compared to other universities, but it is a problem.”

Concordia’s Board of Governors approved a budget in August that required two per cent cuts across the university to eliminate most of the projected deficit.

Graham explained in a recent interview that the vice-presidents were charged with making those choices. “Two-thirds of the university’s budget is under my office. That’s $200 million, so two per cent is $4 million.”

Graham said that easiest choices were those that “had no direct impact on teaching or research.” Ten per cent of his office’s budget was cut by not filling positions of people on leave and eliminating phone lines and subscriptions deemed peripheral. “Inevitably, you reach the end of the easier cuts.”

Graham sat down with the deans to determine how to apply the cuts within the faculties. All of the deans agreed that they would “share the pain”. Factors like which faculties were already facing increased enrollment without any increased funding, or which ones had reserve finances, determined the level of cuts to be absorbed.

In the end, Engineering and Computer Science will face a three per cent cut because of an accrued surplus, Arts & Science will cut two per cent, Fine Arts one-and-a-half per cent and JMSB and the libraries will each cut one per cent of their current budgets.

Graham explained that some of those cuts involve being more strategic about reaching goals. For instance, recruitment of graduate students and faculty remains a priority for the university. However, instead of massive advertising campaigns, recruitment funds may be used to “bring top-notch students to visit. We have seen a better rate of return when we target funds and allow individuals to meet their potential supervisors and get to know the other students they would work with.”

For Graham, the challenge remains. “It’s difficult to be high quality and low cost. Nobody wants to be the Wal-Mart of education,” he added wryly.


Concordia University