On March 15, the Business Board of the University’s Governing Council met to review the upcoming academic year’s tuition fee schedules, operating budget, and ancillary fee plans. It also reviewed the current academic year’s enrolment report, as well as the report on student financial support for the 2021–2022 academic year.
The meeting was split into two sections. First, Cheryl Regehr, vice-president & provost; Scott Mabury, vice-president operations & real estate partnerships; and Jeff Lennon, assistant vice-president planning & budget, gave a presentation on the upcoming tuition fee schedule and operating budget. Mabury then concluded the open portion of the meeting with a review of upcoming ancillary fee plans.
A balanced budget
Every year, the Academic Board reviews the annual operating budget created by the Planning and Budget Committee, which then passes through the Business Board before it can receive Executive Committee endorsement for approval to the Governing Council.
This year, the Academic Board met to discuss the budget on March 9.
The current academic year’s total budget has increased to $3.36 billion, up by $124 million from last year. Total compensation has increased as a portion of the spending, up from 58 per cent to 60 per cent, with the portion dedicated to student aid up from 10 per cent to 11 per cent.
However, the university anticipates seeing a $195 million reduction in revenue next year partly due to a continuing freeze on domestic tuition by the Ontario government. Additionally, the proportion of the university’s budget that comes from the provincial government remains significantly lower than other peer institutions across Canada.
Student numbers falter, aid stays strong
Undergraduate enrolment increased from last year to about 65,700 students in Fall 2021. However, domestic enrolment was about 1.2 per cent below plan, while international enrolment fell short due to fewer students coming to Canada for high school, as well as changes in applicant pools.
The university’s international enrolment, which is about 28 per cent of total enrolment for undergraduate and graduate programs, is close to that of McGill University and the University of British Columbia. However, compared to peer universities in the UK and Australia, U of T attracts fewer international students.
Despite disappointing enrolment figures, the university remains committed to providing financial aid to its students, with a projected increase in the student aid budget to $365 million next year. Of the university’s endowment of approximately $1.36 billion, 43 per cent is targeted for student aid.
Additionally, the existing needs-based bursary program is being redesigned to be more responsive to student needs. The university is also committed to investing more in merit-based and needs-based scholarships for international students.
During her portion of the presentation, Regehr discussed the university’s plans to fund academic priorities. University fund, a redistribution fund that takes 14 per cent off the top of all income that goes to divisions, is one method. The fund has enabled significant investments in initiatives such as mental health services, the hiring of Black and Indigenous faculty, and supporting low-income Torontonians through dental clinics.
Another long-term high priority for the university is information security, with $13 million having been allocated to the effort over the past five years. This investment has enabled the implementation of multi-factor authentication for 120,000 faculty, staff, and students, as well as equipment renewal, testing and endpoint protection testing in six divisions.
Ancillary fee changes
Mabury gave a presentation on the university’s new model of cost-recovery ancillary fees. In particular, the University is looking to apply smaller annual increases to keep up with inflation — rather than periodic larger corrections — to reduce the impact on students and subsidies from other operating funds.
This year, 46 per cent of the fees will increase by five per cent or less, and 32 per cent will remain unchanged or reduced. However, 16 per cent of fees will see larger increases due to exceptional inflation and cost of goods and services.
The university is also proposing 15 new categories of fees, including professional experience entry fees and clinic placement fees. The fees will be phased in over several years to offset the costs of placement services provided to students. New common University-wide fees will also be implemented for registrar services previously administered separately by division.
The Business Board’s next meeting is scheduled for April 26.