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University of Manitoba approves its 2020-21 budget

Board of Governors approves balanced operating budget with commitment to re-evaluate as pandemic situation evolves

May 19, 2020 — 

The University of Manitoba’s Board of Governors approved the University’s 2020-21 $674.6 million general operating budget at its regularly scheduled meeting on May 19, 2020. This year’s budget process began prior to the COVID-19 outbreak with the goal of addressing the fiscal restrictions facing Canadian universities while maintaining a commitment to transformative research and scholarship and innovative teaching and learning.

“Our commitment to transformation and innovation has never been more important than it is today. We are working together in new, unpredictable realities that call on our province’s universities to be leaders in creating, preserving, communicating and applying knowledge that contributes to the cultural, social and economic well-being of the people of Manitoba, Canada and the world,” says President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. David Barnard.

“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University was operating in a fiscally constrained environment, and the current context continues to present challenges that change on a near daily basis. Thankfully, we have invested strategically over the years, and in this budget, to ensure our students receive excellent learning opportunities while we remain one of the most affordable and respected research universities in the country.”

The 2020-21 budget was prepared in the context of a one percent reduction to the provincial grant, the third consecutive similar reduction, of $3.4 million. To partially address this, UM’s budget includes an increase in tuition and course-related fees, which are expected to result in additional revenue of approximately $2.7 million. The Province has since signalled a further reduction to the University’s 2020-21 grant, an additional four per cent or close to $14 million, for this year only, according to government statements. This puts significant pressure on the University to adjust to this new scenario, requiring monitoring throughout the year.

The proposed budget addresses emerging priorities, including $600,000 to support pandemic response and relief, with a particular focus on remote teaching and learning. The University has also budgeted $10 million as a contingency for this year that will be used to address the uncertainties and financial implications expected to emerge in the coming months.

This budget introduces variable undergraduate tuition rate increases while ensuring programs remain the most accessible in Western Canada. The 2020-21 budget reflects an average increase of 3.75 per cent in tuition fees. University-wide fees have also increased by 3.75 per cent. Under the new tuition schedule, most students, including students in Arts and Science, two of the largest faculties, would expect to pay approximately $250 more per year for a full course-load.

The University remains committed to offering financial support for eligible students.

“Even though the University of Manitoba remains one of the most financially accessible options for post-secondary study in Canada, we know that cost is a barrier to many, even in the best of times. That is why we allocated an additional $600,000 in student aid, creating $16.6 million in bursaries and scholarships supporting undergraduate and graduate students, as well as specific supports for Indigenous and international students,” says Dr. Janice Ristock, Provost and Vice-President (Academic) at UM. “We are focused on providing students with the best possible academic experience in this challenging time.”

While acknowledging the uncertainty of this fiscal year, the 2020-21 budget includes funds earmarked for a number of important strategic initiatives, the implementation of which will need to be assessed carefully. This includes enhanced resources for the University community, allocating $350,000 to complete the Sexual Violence Resource Centre pilot project and other enhanced supports. It also provides an additional $300,000 to support student counselling.

The budget continues the multi-year support of numerous initiatives laid out in previous budgets, such as providing $900,000 to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, and $1 million for research initiatives. As well, this budget includes a significant investment in IT servers and network capabilities, which is especially important during this time of remote learning.

As the pandemic and related impacts unfold, financial projections will be updated and measures will continue to be implemented to manage and mitigate the financial impacts while supporting student success.

Jeff Lieberman, Chair, University of Manitoba Board of Governors, thanked President Barnard and his team “for their work on the 2020-21 budget in extraordinary circumstances” and acknowledged “this budget is President Barnard’s last before he completes 12 years of outstanding leadership, ensuring financial stability for the UM and his unwavering commitment to post-secondary education in Manitoba and the country.”

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