Alternative revenue needed to address deficit

Proposals to address deficit include increasing enrolment and seeking alternative revenues

U of T is currently facing a structural deficit, to which increasing enrolment, establishing a stronger connection with Brampton, and seeking out alternative revenues have been proposed as solutions.

A scenario presented at a Campus Council meeting held on October 7 revealed that if there were a total halt on the university’s growing population and an increase in both revenue and expenditure for the 2015/16 academic year, a 1.5 percent structural deficit would be incurred.

Scott Mabury, a chemistry professor at U of T who also serves as the VP university operations, emphasized the need to increase enrolment to counteract such a deficit.

“We add students, they add revenue to balance this out,” said Mabury, who also referred to what he calls a “virtuous cycle”, where a steady state can be achieved through an increase in student enrolment, staff hiring, and construction of buildings.

When asked about the current student to faculty ratios, Mabury replied, “Yes, we’re a little behind on student-faculty ratios, but we need to build buildings to hire the faculty, to then be able to solve that problem.”

International student tuition brought in 21 percent of the revenue, or $464 million, for 2015/16 and plans to increase international enrolment are underway. Fifty-eight percent of the international student population stems from China and Hong Kong, and an issue for students coming from mainland China is the possibility of a governmental decision that might restrict student from enroling in foreign universities. The implications of such a decision could have a negative impact on UTM’s vision to increase international enrolment.

Ulrich Krull, acting VP of the University of Toronto, points out that most international Chinese students enrolled at UTM would not be negatively affected by such a decision.

“The way that UTM has largely recruited its international student population—Chinese students in particular—is that we don’t recruit from mainland China, we recruit from Canada,” said Krull, who explained that U of T often recruits international students from China who are currently studying in Canadian secondary schools.

There are also long-term, tri-campus undergraduate enrolment plans. By 2019, the undergraduate population of UTM is expected to hit 13,044 students—a 20-percent increase from the student population in 2014.

Apart from student enrolment revenues, government grants, and other student fees, U of T gained 12.5 percent of its revenue from alternative sources. Mabury argues that more attention should be given to increasing alternative revenues in order to balance out the 57.3 percent of revenue derived from student fees.

UTM is also exploring possibilities of strengthening its ties with the Brampton community. Around 1,400 students are enrolled at the UTM campus who live in Brampton, and Krull is optimistic about an increase of this number, provided that better access between Brampton and the UTM campus is established.

“What [the enrolment number of Brampton students] suggests is that we are not getting the best students, or at least not as many as we could potentially get from Brampton,” said Krull. “Why is that? Transportation issues are primary.”

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