Next year’s university operating budget is here — a little earlier than usual.
On Tuesday afternoon (March 29), Dalhousie’s Board of Governors voted to approve the university Operating Budget Plan and tuition and fees for 2022-23. The approved budget plan is balanced at $516.7 million and includes a 3% tuition increase and investments in Faculty and unit budgets, student assistance, facilities renewal and strategic priorities, among other areas.
Read the full budget plan: dal.ca/budget
Traditionally, the Board has voted on tuition and fees at its April meeting, with the overall operating budget approved in June. But ahead of work on a new budget model, targeted for 2023-24, Dalhousie’s budget planners wanted to revise the university budget timeline to better align with the fiscal year.
“By having an approved operating budget at the start of the fiscal year, rather than a few months in, we hope to provide our Faculties and units with more clarity and efficiency in their individual budget planning,” says Gitta Kulczycki, Dalhousie vice-president finance and administration.
Balancing the books
Making up roughly 70% of Dal’s financial activity, the operating budget covers the day-to-day costs of running the university. Nearly all operating budget revenue (90%) comes from just two sources: Dal’s provincial government grant and tuition fees. This money, plus additional revenues from endowments and other areas, is then used to invest in areas including compensation for faculty and staff (salaries, benefits and pension payments), scholarships and bursaries for students, maintenance and upkeep for campus buildings, libraries funding, utilities expenses, and major university priorities.
The task of developing the draft operating budget falls to the Budget Advisory Committee (BAC), which is led by the provost and includes a mix of administrators, faculty and student members.
“Our goal is to synthesize the Dalhousie community’s budget and spending priorities into a budget that ensures we continue to advance the university’s mission while also balancing the books,” explains Frank Harvey, Dalhousie provost and vice-president academic and chair of the BAC.
The challenge Dal faces each year is that costs increase faster than government funding: the government grant goes up by 1% each year under the current provincial agreement, but Dal’s costs go up 3-4% each year, driven by increases to compensation and inflationary costs. So that means a mix of tuition increases and cost savings are needed to balance the budget — while, at the same time, ensuring funds are available for critical university priorities.
Investing in key priorities
The approved operating budget largely reflects the draft budget plan presented to the university community for review in late January. Among its highlights:
- The 2022-23 operating budget is balanced with revenues and expenditures totaling $516.7M.
- Overall Faculty and unit budgets will increase by 4.4%, a total of $16.2M which includes Faculties and units addressing a 1.5% gap between revenues and expenses.
- Base funding for student assistance will increase by $1M. There will also be an additional $2.6M in student support from endowment funds.
- Facilities renewal funding will increase by $4M, along with $500K to improve classroom technology
- $9M is dedicated to Third Century Promise initiatives and other essential university priorities
- $2M is allocated to address COVID-19 revenue impacts and additional costs.
Tuition increasing by 3%
In conjunction with approval of the budget plan, the Board of Governors also voted to approve tuition and student fees for 2022-23.
General tuition is set to increase by 3% next year — the same amount it has increased annually for more a decade now. Provost Harvey explains tuition increases are necessary given the gap between rising costs and operating funding.
“Without tuition increases, deeper cuts to programs, services and critical university priorities would need to be made,” says Dr. Harvey. “We understand the impact these increases have on students, which is why we continue to prioritize student support and financial aid in our investments — focusing our resources on those students who need this support most.”
Across all university funds (including research, endowment, and operating/ancillary funds), Dalhousie currently spends nearly $82M each year on student assistance, including scholarships, bursaries, student employment, research and external funds.
Full-time international tuition will also increase in 2022-23 by an additional $1,473 above the 3% general increase. This is the fourth and final year for this additional increase, which was part of a multi-year international fee plan approved by the Board in 2019.
Change on the horizon
The Dalhousie community can expect to hear more about international tuition in the near future, as a university task force commissioned in fall 2021 is expected to provide recommendations on a new fee model that would apply to new international students starting their studies in Fall 2023 and beyond.
With Dal’s international tuition currently sitting significantly lower than many comparable universities nationally, the task force is set to outline a model for international tuition that would support Dal’s enrolment goals (including growth and diversification), enhances revenue to further support Dal’s academic mission, and supports an exceptional student experience (through high-quality programs and support systems, including financial aid and awards).
A new approach to international tuition will sit within a new approach to the budget overall: one of the commitments in Dal’s strategic plan, Third Century Promise, is to develop a new budget model for the university, with plans for it to start rolling out through the 2023-24 fiscal year. .
“Our goal is a budget that continues to ensure effective resource management and sustained financial stability for the future,” says Kulczycki. “We’ll be sharing more details in the coming months.”