Enrollment is down at the University of Victoria, especially among international students and without that vital source of revenue, UVic has announced it’s slashing its budget as of April 1.
Some areas will be exempt, but overall the school is looking at $17 million in budget cuts across the board.
“The university is wanting to claim that the budget problem is an enrollment problem,” said Sebastian Bonet, an instructor in Sociology and Environmental Studies. “This is actually a funding problem.”
Some sessional instructors, such as Bonet, have been informed the number of classes they’re teaching will be cut in half as the university looks to reduce costs.
Each course earns an instructor approximately $7,000 a semester, and with so many classes being slashed many are facing up to a 50 per cent pay cut.
“There is going to be a whole bunch of sessional instructors that are scrambling to pay their rent, and feed their kids and looking to get second jobs,” Bonet said.
He believes that students will have fewer choices as a result.
English professor Stephen Ross said there is little room to cut.
“It’s pretty alarming. It’s not something we can take lightly especially since the university has been running razor-thin finances for some time now,” Ross said.
Both Ross and Bonet blame consecutive provincial governments for not meeting the demands of funding B.C.’s post-secondary institutions.
“It’s really dismaying to know that the support from the government for public education in the province hasn’t improved even with a transition to a Liberal to an NDP government,” Ross said.
UVic’s head of finance and operations says this is not a problem unique to UVic.
“Universities across Canada experienced enrollment declines during the three years of the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote Kristi Simpson, head for the school’s finances and operations, in a statement.
“Some factors that contributed to the decline include: the federal delay in processing study permits; lockdowns and travel restrictions; the recent reopening of travel; and a now recovering labour market with increased employment opportunities for prospective students.”
She says that the decline in enrollment and the resulting decline in tuition revenue are the primary factors that will affect UVic’s budget in 2023-24. “When you combine tuition revenue with the provincial government grant, which is based on the number of domestic (Canadian) students enrolled, over 90% of UVic’s operating budget is linked directly to student enrollment.”
“While we are proposing a 4% budget cut for 2023-24, we are taking steps to rebuild enrollment, both domestically and internationally. We are also exploring opportunities to attract new learners, such as through micro-credentials and professional programs.”
Tuition increases in the province are capped at two per cent annually, however, it’s higher for international students, increasing as much as five per cent.
Students on campus say financing their education is already difficult enough.
Safi Morisho is a third year business student.
“A lot of my classmates are really struggling academically because of that. I can only imagine how much stress that is going to bring on to them,” Morisho said.
Chloe Crabbe and Kyla Lands are both enrolled in UVic’s Department of Theatre and say any further cuts, or tuition increases, are going to hurt students.
“It’s going to drive students away, potential students especially,” Crabbe said.
“I’m actually moving back home because I can’t afford to be here anymore,” Lands said.
The university says over 90 per cent of its operating budget is linked directly to student enrollment.