There's been a lot of talk about the SFU budget recently. Notably, a softening job market and other global dynamics have been affecting international and domestic student enrollments, the province is reviewing post-secondary funding models, and it's also a bargaining year, where employee groups are looking for general wage increases to keep up with inflation.
There has also been a lot of talk that departments should tighten their belts and wait out this difficult time.
With all of these concerns, if you're an APSA member who wants to see a healthy wage increase or an APSA member who manages a budget, you may be worried about the impact of a potential deficit at SFU.
There are some critical factors to consider when evaluating the current budget concerns.
First, SFU's financial plan is a forecast, and often we do not see the actuals until a year or two later. For example, in 2020, the University was projecting a potential "decrease in income, resulting in $26M less income than anticipated".
Yet, in 2021, the actuals showed a surplus. The Georgia Straight reported that "SFU's annual operating surplus of $53.5 million was 3.8 percent higher than forecast." Despite the cyclical talk of deficits at SFU, the last actual deficit was in 2009.
So despite international enrollments being down, other factors may contribute to an overall surplus for the University. Ancillary services such as Meetings and Events are back up and running. More people are gathering once again in person and on campus, not to mention using services in UniverCity.
Something else to consider when evaluating the anxiety about a deficit is the timing. As in the last round of bargaining during the pandemic, SFU representatives promoted how poor the University was just as bargaining was about to begin. This isn't an accident. It's a tool to soften employee expectations about wage increases and soften demands at the bargaining table. It's key to remember this.
Like SFU, we can't predict the future. While there is a strong history of robust surpluses at the University over the last decade, it's also important to remember that it's a bargaining year, and that SFU has a strong interest in containing wage demands.
If you'd like to learn more about SFU's 2023/2024 Budget Plan, a townhall will take place on October 17, 2022, via Zoom.