How the U of S makes and spends its money:
ISHMAEL N. DARO
A sizeable increase in provincial funding has allowed the University of Saskatchewan to create a balanced budget for the 2011-12 year without dramatic tuition increases.
The provincial government’s base operating grant increased eight per cent over last year, from $261.9 million to $283 million, comprising 70 per cent of the university’s $420 million budget.
Richard Florizone, university vice-president of finance and resources, said the increase reflects Saskatchewan’s healthy economy, allowing ongoing investment while other governments are scaling back spending.
“What’s different in Saskatchewan versus the rest of the country and the rest of North America and, in some ways, the rest of the world, is that continued strong government support,” he said. “It’s been critical and at the end of the day we’re able to produce a balanced budget, which is wonderful.”
“It does take a lot to operate an institution. We’ve got roughly five million square feet on campus. If you look at our heating, our cooling, our electrical, we’re about North Battleford.” Richard Florizone, U of S vice-president finance and resources
Florizone pointed to tuition increases in the U.K. as an example of governments trying to cope with education costs in the wake of the Great Recession. Tuition there will as much as triple for some students, which has led to widespread protests.
The University of Saskatchewan’s Board of Governors approved a modest tuition hike of 3.2 per cent in April that, along with higher enrolment, will earn the university about $9 million over the previous year.
Much of the school’s extra cash will go toward paying salaries and benefits, which increased almost nine per cent to $287.8 million. Florizone said this increase is partly because the school is vying more aggressively for faculty against other universities in Canada.
“You’ve seen some escalation there [in costs], both as others have moved ahead in recent years but also as we’ve closed the gap with our competitors,” said Florizone. These competitors include other members of “the U15,” the top research schools in Canada.
Scott Hitchings, the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union president, said he was satisfied with the overall budget.
“It is within the margins we were looking for, in regards to tuition. The raises aren’t ideal, but they are necessary and manageable,” he said.
However, Hitchings said a clear “long-term tuition strategy” would allow students to plan ahead for any raises in tuition from year to year.
The budget also includes over $10 million in new provincial targeted funding for specific initiatives. This includes more than $2 million for more seats in the College of Medicine and $1 million in permanent new funding for the College of Nursing.
The university’s budget was approved by the Board of Governors May 10.
graphic: Brianna Whitmore/The Sheaf