Conestoga news

June 29, 2004 2:55 PM

Conestoga College Board of Governors Approves 2004-2005 Budget, Addresses Deficit

KITCHENER, June 29 - The Board of Governors of Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning tonight approved a budget of $86.4 million for fiscal 2004-2005. This budget reflects a deficit projection of $1.4 million for 2004-2005, attributable to a number of provincial funding decisions.

Conestoga intends to achieve a balanced budget in the future, but will be taking a number of measures throughout the current fiscal year in order to deal with the current situation.

Among these measures are reducing program hours for most postsecondary programs of study, finding further efficiencies in operations, implementing reductions in some services and activities, and seeking opportunities for generation of increased revenues.

A number of decisions beyond the control of Conestoga have created the deficit situation:

Chronic underfunding - Ontario’s colleges receive more than $2,000 less in per-student funding than is the case with either universities or school boards. On a per capita basis, the Ontario college system is the lowest-funded of any educational sector in Ontario, and this situation has existed for several years.

Lateness of the Ontario Budget - The Ontario Budget was not introduced until May 18, more than six weeks after the start of the 2004-2005 fiscal year for Ontario’s colleges. Conestoga had already made and acted on a number of key fiscal commitments which must be carried forward, thereby contributing to the projected deficit.

No new funding for growth - From November 2001 to November 2003, Conestoga’s postsecondary enrolment grew by 17 per cent. Despite this, the Ontario Budget effectively froze funding levels to colleges and provided no new funds to meet the challenges of enrolment growth.

No funding related to collective agreements - New collective agreements were centrally negotiated province-wide for both the academic and support staff sectors. Neither at that time nor in the Ontario Budget was additional funding provided to address this significant rise in costs.

Dennis Watson, Chair of the Board of Governors, commented at the time of the budget approval, "This chronic underfunding of a valuable sector that contributes so much to the development of the local and provincial economies is very discouraging. For six consecutive years, Conestoga has proven its quality, being ranked as best college in the province. Furthermore, Conestoga’s immense value to the community is reflected in the fact that local Conestoga graduates annually have earnings of more than $1.3 billion, more than 60 per cent of our grads live and work in midwestern Ontario, more than 40 per cent of the local adult population has taken courses at Conestoga, and participation in adult education courses and programs helps renew and advance more than 36 per cent of the local labour force. The Board fully supports Conestoga’s efforts and achievements, and therefore approves this budget and the deficit-elimination plans that will allow the institution to continue moving forward.”

President Tibbits also made reference to the chronic underfunding of the college system and the immediate and long-term consequences of this situation.

"Conestoga will do what it must to maintain high quality in a fiscally responsible manner,” Tibbits said. "Certainly, I hope that the Rae Commission on postsecondary education will shed light both on problems and on opportunities - the funding issues that result in Ontario’s colleges being the province’s most underfunded area of education, and the structural issues that can be addressed in such a way as to improve college/university credit transfers and to facilitate initiatives that help to integrate the two systems. Ontario’s colleges deliver quality education in a more cost-effective way than any other sector of education in the province. They also have an unequaled record of accessibility and innovation, and service to their local communities.”