The Economics of Bishop's
We are in the midst of challenging discussions about the future of our University. Of utmost importance are the negotiations of collective agreements with various tables of the APBU, as well as our need to find a partnership model that will ensure the long term viability of our defined benefits pension plan. These are difficult issues that have caused debate on campus. Nonetheless, we must collectively explore a broad and critical issue: How do we maintain the quality of the Bishop’s Experience while being fiscally responsible?
A glance at our budget projections raises serious concern. To illustrate:
• according to our draft audited statements, the University realized a deficit in 2005-06 of $222,000 exclusive of pension deficit funding of $1,568,000 which, when added, resulted in a net loss of $1,790,000, bringing our accumulated deficit at June 30, 2006 to $2,375,000;
• this deficit of 2005-06 has led the Ministry of Education (MELS) to put a hold on the payment of a $2,300,000 conditional grant until Bishop’s prepares a balanced-budget plan for the government that meets its approval to release the funds. We face a similar situation in 2006-07 with an expected loss of $2,700,000 and a possible second holdback by the MELS of $2,400,000. By June 30, 2007, the accumulated deficit is projected to be just over $5,000,000;
• our financial picture does not improve in 2007-08. Our net loss is projected to be $2,740,000, leading to an accumulated deficit of $7.8 million. The spiral downwards continues in ensuing years. It is conceivable that by June 30th 2009, a mere two years from now, our accumulated deficit will be close to $12 million.
It’s imperative to note that the assumptions underlying the current budget projections in fact now appear to reflect a rather optimistic view of revenues These assumptions are as follows:
• student enrolment has been projected to stabilize at 1900 - although in this semester we have already dropped to 1955 full-time students. Given a large graduating class of over 700 this spring, retention and recent recruitment numbers for September 2007 now indicate a further decline, possibly to 1800. This drop has not been reflected in the forecasts;
• relatively consistent occupancy rates in residence and stable revenue from ancillary fees;
• no pension-deficit expenses paid out of the University operating budget;
• allowances for salary step increases, but no salary scale increases.
While enrollment is of serious concern, we must not downplay the state of our defined benefit pension plan – one many organizations face due to concerns about the level and volatility of pension plan investments and expenses, as well as solvency and long-term affordability.
A number of Quebec university principals and rectors, including me, have implored the government to lift the freeze on Quebec tuition and to provide greater incentive for donations by individuals and corporations. For over four years this same group has promoted the fact that the Quebec university system is under funded by $375 million per year. In the upcoming election higher education is certain to be on the political agenda, but whether politicians will have the courage to make hard decisions on these topics remains to be seen, especially with one provincial party talking about free tuition. The new promise by the Quebec Liberal party to raise tuition by $100 per year is a step in the right direction, but still insufficient as it will only increase our revenue by $190,000.
Bishop’s University must be master of its own destiny. A decline in enrolment and an increase in bank borrowing spell nothing but a tenuous financial future. There is mounting pressure to achieve a balanced budget through cuts – something I refuse to do because a cut in the quality of our programs is not what is needed. We must collaborate – all campus constituents – to build a better Bishop’s. To attract more students, new donors and new partners, we need to explore new ways of defining and offering the Bishop’s experience. That might entail innovative or redesigned academic programs, new sources of revenue, different funding models, a change in our delivery methods.
To this end the Senate recently passed a unanimous motion outlining short, medium and long term actions aimed at improving program attractiveness, student recruitment and retention. This motion stressed the necessity of linking all efforts to the strategic planning process.
The Strategic Planning Committee is hard at work. The first short term objective is to unlock last year’s $2,300,000 and this year’s $2,400,000 MELS conditional grants. Its next objective will be, of course, to address the issue of strategic planning in a more comprehensive manner. The strategic plan will be the cornerstone of our next capital campaign. Donors will want to know where Bishop’s is going and how it plans to address not only its financial issues but also, more importantly, the many challenges facing higher education.
The time is now to work together to engage our imaginations and resources in conceiving how to secure our financial future and further the Bishop’s mission. I look forward to discussing these issues and taking your questions at a Bishop’s Town Hall Meeting scheduled for Friday, March 9 at 2:00 pm in Centennial Theatre.
News from around campus
In an effort to encourage more returning students to stay in residence two new policies are now in effect. First, all students living in residence this year can take advantage of a rent freeze for the 2007-08 academic year. Second, all Golden Key and returning students holding academic scholarships will receive a $1000 scholarship towards their residence fees.
Work has begun on the implementation of a new Financial Management System at Bishop’s. This will replace the current system which is 14 years old, and will eliminate the risks associated with running a system that can no longer be adequately supported. The new system will better allow the University to use “best practice” business processes in the financial management of Bishop’s University. The first phase of the implementation is expected to go live in July 2007 and will include the core financial modules (General Ledger, Funds Management, Budgeting, Accounts Receivable/Payable). By November 2007 the ITS department plans to be in the pilot testing phase of the Procurement module (Portal, Requisition, Purchase Order).
A dynamic day-long symposium on entrepreneurship was held on campus January 31. Over 120 high school aged students and staff from English secondary schools and Adult Centers within the Eastern Townships, New Frontier and Riverside school boards were present. The entrepreneurship symposium, which was hosted by Bishop’s University and Champlain College Lennoxville, offered hands-on learning experiences and created an opportunity for students to build networks with individuals from other schools on the theme of entrepreneurship.
A special thanks to ACE (Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship), Conferences, the Liaison Office, Facilities, and Security – all of whom contributed to the success of this event to build entrepreneurial leadership for youth.
As part of our new Leadership Development program, the Co-Curricular Profile is a new initiative brought to our students through the Student Affairs Office. It will be an opportunity for students to officially document their involvement in activities outside the classroom. Official copies of the Co-Curricular Profile can be used to complement a student’s resume and academic transcript when applying for employment or graduate school. Registering for a Co-Curricular Profile will be voluntary and the responsibility of each student. Please contact Diane Houde for more information on this new program.
Valentine’s Day was certainly a day at Bishop’s to seek out a match! Over 30 companies visited the campus for Gait 2 Job, the largest career fair on campus in recent memory.
The ASK program – Alumni Sharing Knowledge – kicks off this semester. Organized through the Alumni & Development Office, this initiative hopes to bring more Bishop’s graduates back to campus during the academic year to meet with students, attend classes as guest lecturers/presenters, or simply become more engaged in campus life. A number of visits by graduates have been organized with the Williams School of Business, including a motivational presentation to a first year Business course and a successful entrepreneur speaking to an entrepreneurship class. The company of one of our graduates will be used for the final Business Policy case presentation. Another graduate and former Gaiter will be speaking to graduating Gaiter athletes about the job search process.
If you are interested in getting involved in ASK please contact Matt McBrine in the Alumni & Development Office.
The Alumni & Development Office is taking the best of Bishop’s on the road. In February four Business students presented their winning case competition at an Alumni Networking Lunch in Montreal. In March the University Singers will be heading to Toronto for a show to which prospective students, alumni, and parents of current students will be invited. The Office will continue to explore opportunities to take Bishop’s students and faculty “on the road”.
Bishop's University, as a member of the Réseau québécois de calcul de haute performance (RQCHP), has access to a supercomputer that is the most powerful system of its kind in Canada. The RQCHP is a network of researchers in high-performance computing at the Université de Montréal (home to the supercomputer), Université de Sherbrooke, Concordia University, Bishop's University and the Ecole Polytechnique. The network comprises a pool of advanced computer facilities that provide its members with the computing resources crucial to the progress of their work in various fields, including astrophysics, medicine, nanotechnology and transportation.
From the Research Office
In collaboration with the Comité du patrimoine paysager estrien (Paysages Estriens), Dr. Darren Bardati was involved in a research project on the public perceptions of Sherbrooke’s principal commercial artery, King Street / Boulevard Bourque. Thanks to a research grant he was awarded by the ETRC, a master’s student in Environmental Studies at Université de Sherbrooke, Jean-Pierre Gouin, was hired as part of an internship to perform the data collection.
The study surveyed citizens from all districts of the City of Sherbrooke on the management and aesthetics of the street with a view of sustainable development and future beautification alternatives. Many aspects were looked at: greenery, billboards, street surface, building fronts, traffic fluidity, pedestrian walkability, store/shop location, etc. Dr. Bardati supervised the work and the production of a 42-page report closely, and plans to use the data collected for the writing of journal articles on sustainable planning. Jean-Pierre Gouin is currently completing his master’s thesis research under the supervision of Dr. Bardati on public participation in the development of new wind farms in Quebec.
Paysages Estriens is a community organization established in 2001 to raise awareness on the importance of preserving and promoting the Eastern Townships landscape. In collaboration with different stakeholders (municipal and provincial governments, chambers of commerce, environmental organizations, etc.), it ensures the proper management and development of the regional landscape. Dr. Bardati’s project is a great example of how academic research can be useful to the community and local governments in order to develop better policies and improve the quality of life of our citizens.
The Eastern Townships Research Centre would like to further support this type of collaborative research in areas of importance for our regional communities and reinforce decision-making and problem-solving capacities in the community.
For those interested, the study is available on the Web site of the Comité du patrimoine paysager estrien at: paysagesestriens.qc.ca.
The End of the Double Cohort
Since 2003, Bishop’s has benefited from the Ontario government’s decision to eliminate grade 13 which created the phenomenon of the double cohort. The University reached a historical enrollment high in 2005 with 2206 fulltime students. The bulge effect created by the double cohort comes to an end this year. Convocation day (June 9), we expect over 775 students to graduate, the largest in Bishop’s history – an increase of 25% over last year.
Unfortunately, we are already starting to feel the double cohort’s perverse consequence with a drop of 7.5% in full-time student registration compared to Winter 2006 full-time student registration. Fulltime enrolment for this semester stands at 1955 students.
Faced with the unpleasant reality of an enrolment shortfall, the Bishop’s University Senate has requested the University community to focus its energies and examine new initiatives to improve student enrollment. This issue is also of paramount concern for the Strategic Planning Committee, its Work Groups, and the APBU.
Increased out-of-province school visits, changes to the Super Saturday (Bishop’s version of Open House) formula, contacting prospects before the application deadline, and earlier responses to admitted applicants are some of the ways in which the Registrar’s Office is trying to increase applicant to admitted student yield rate. Concurrently the Admissions and Records Offices are working closely with the Deans to pre-register new students - thus increasing the commitment level and hopefully more bodies on campus in September.
Every member of the campus community can play a crucial role in attracting and retaining students to Bishop’s.
To Professor Hogg (Political Studies) for organizing an outstanding conference in January “The Gray Lecture 60 Years later”. The conference attracted academics from across the country.
To Dr. Jonathan Fortier (English) who recently spoke at a Fraser Institute/Montreal Economic Institute Seminar titled Explore Public Policy Issues. Dr. Fortier’s presentation was: All Tied Up: How Regulation Strangles Creativity and Prosperity.
To Dr. Cheryl Gosselin (Sociology) who discussed on CBC radio in January the latest findings on marriage rates in Canada, and Quebec’s lower rates compared to the rest of the country.
To Dr. Jade Savage (Biology) who was featured recently in a special section of La Tribune – Estrie Rayonne. The section features some of the rising young stars in the area.
To Elizabeth MacSween, Laura Roper, two Residence Assistants, who recently made a presentation at a Residence Life Conference held at Nipissing University. Their topic was fighting prejudice and intolerance in rez; the session looked at ways to use programming to build an accepting residence community.
To the SRC for their organization and to the entire Bishop’s community for supporting this semester's blood donor clinic which set a record for number of donors - 208.
To Starr Dostie, a student in Chemistry, who has been awarded one of three $1500 bursaries from la Fondation Lucine-Piche in a provincial competition. These bursaries recognize outstanding achievement at a Quebec university by a final-year student. Starr is only the second Bishop's student to receive this honour.
To Laure Pitfield, a third year player on the Women's Basketball Team, who was named MVP of the Quebec University Basketball League.
Bishop's faired well at the 16th Annual Lennoxville Achievement Awards in February. The Bishop's Student Patrol received the Heroism Award, while Lacrosse player Mitch Young was the recipient of the Sport Award.
University Town Hall Meeting
Friday, March 9 @ 2:00 pm, Centennial Theatre
Modern Languages Week
March 10 - 16
A week dedicated to the learning of foreign languages and cultures. Featuring: Cultural activities, Film viewings, Guest speakers and more!
March 19 - 23, 2007
Watch for more details shortly on the 2nd Annual Research Week.