Monday, July 28, 2014
Last updated: 1 day ago

UBC looks to international students, online courses to fill budget gaps

Budgets can be tough to figure out. Photo Henry Ye/The Ubyssey

UBC is looking for new sources of funding — mainly international students — to fill gaps in its budget.

VP Finance Pierre Ouillet projects that UBC’s budget will be going through two or three financially “tight” years, with a $2.5 million deficit predicted for 2013-2014.

“Our revenue is all flat,” said Ouillet. “If we do nothing and continue with the current model, we are looking at deficit for UBC as a whole that increases every year.”

Ouillet wants to be less reliant on provincial funding, which accounts for 40 per cent of UBC’s operating budget but is not protected against inflation. In order to do so, UBC has to either look for alterative revenue streams or cut expenses.

The university is counting on the Bridge to UBC program as one key piece to fill in the budget. The Bridge program would be a separate but affiliated college to prepare international students for entrance to UBC. It was created to diversify funds and the student population, according to Angela Redish, vice-provost for enrolment, who is leading the project.

Before Bridge can take in tuition from potentially 300 new students in 2014, the program’s expected start date, it will require a $4 million investment for curriculum development and faculty hires.

“Will it make money? I believe yes,… [but] it’s not going to be fully up to speed for the first three years,” said Redish.

Although the Bridge program is expected to bring in a potential $23 million at its peak to balance a $20.6 million deficit in 2017, both Ouillet and Redish maintain that UBC has other means to pad its budget. They cited extended use of the university during the summer months and new online learning initiatives for non-UBC students as possible ways to bring in revenue.

“It’s a combination of strategies. Bridge is just one element of the financial model of the university,” said Ouillet.

In terms of cuts, Ouillet said that reduction of personnel has been made already and will continue, with administrative budgets already reduced by $30 million and undergoing a two per cent cut over the next two to three years.

He said the most noticeable difference that students could potentially see would be adjustments to the faculty-student ratio, but faculty-specific cuts would be decided by deans.

“We’re running a fairly effective university right now and what we need to do is try to figure out in each of the departments where to cut without impacting the student experience,” said Ouillet.

“UBC is definitely caught between a rock and a hard place,” said AMS President Matt Parson. “It’s nice to see that UBC is being a bit forward-thinking in these alternate programs and hopeful that they turn out to be significant enough to cover any shortfall that might be projected in the future.”

As concerned as Ouillet might be of the “erosion of public support,” he thinks UBC can pull through the budget crunch.

“I think UBC will overcome anything over time. I am very confident about the capability of this place.”