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Capilano University deficit hits $2.2 million

Budget balanced through across-the-board cuts
Capilano University.

This year's budget overrun at Capilano University is one-and-a-half times bigger than what it was in 2013.

But, despite a shortfall of $2.2 million in operating costs, there won't be another bloodletting of cancelled programs like there was last year.

After kickstarting budget consultations with faculty and staff early, the university's board of governors has been presented with a balanced budget that makes up for a shortfall by asking each department to find fiveper-cent cuts.

It may result in some classes being cancelled, but not entire programs.

"We went to absolutely every area of the university - academic as well as facilities, IT, and certainly all the administrative services - and asked, 'If you were going to try to squeeze five per cent out in terms of efficiencies or cuts, what would be your recommended areas?'" said Kris Bulcroft, Capilano University president. "I have to give them credit. It was hard - harder for some units than others - but they really took the task to hand and did their level best to come up with some suggestions that would minimize the damage to the institution and to our students."

In order to make up for $1.3-million deficit in 2013, blamed largely on a lack of provincial funding, the university's board of governors voted to cut several non-degree granting programs, including studio arts, textile arts, computer science as well as arts and science transfer courses.

This resulted in protests on campus and questions about whether the university was operating without a plan.

This year's provincial operating grant came in $950,000 lower than last year and the school also lost about $350,000 of contracts in the same time period.

Beyond that, the budget was also challenged with a mandatory two-percent salary increase for staff and faculty, which was negotiated by the province but paid for by the university, though Bulcroft said she supports the increase.

Campus morale as been better in this go-around of the budget, Bulcroft said.

"I think the process was better this year because we dedicated a lot more time and it was a much more engaging process for the entire campus community.

I think people felt like they had an opportunity to really try to steer the campus community in the right direction," she said.

The school is looking to increase revenues by getting higher enrolment and courting more international students, who pay much higher fees, but there is no truth to rumours that the soonto-be-empty studio arts building will be converted into international student residences or a submarine research facility, Bulcroft said.

"How would we get the submarines up there?" Bulcroft asked with a laugh. "Whatever we would put in the studio arts building would require a fair infusion of capital dollars for renovation and we just don't have it right now."

While there are still some concerns about the five-per-cent cuts being spread equitably through departments varying greatly in size, the Capilano Faculty Association is much more on board this year.

"They started the consultation process way sooner so faculty were at least given a heads up that we know there's going to be a funding shortage again," said Joanne Quirk, association president. "That was much better because what they did last year was they made that decision for faculty, which is why the proverbial. .. hit the fan," she said.

Much like the administration strived for in 2013, this year's cuts are designed to have the least impact on students and programs, Quirk said.

"The faculty themselves have done an amazing job pulling together. As you know, trying to cut any kind of money when you're already short is a difficult thing to do. They did it with integrity and respect and we did it with trying to do the least amount of harm to students," she said.

With no indication the university will enjoy better provincial funding next year, Bulcroft warned that across-the-board cuts may not be an option.

The school is hosting an open forum on the budget this Thursday, April 10, starting at 11:30 a.m in the Library building, Room 322, at the North Vancouver campus, 2055 Purcell Way.