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University financing questioned | Regional | News

Financing agreements for the universities of the province must be transparent and public, says the director of the Nova Scotia Association of University Professors.

"The problem is that it is being done ad hoc and not transparent," said Scott Stewart, president of the Teachers' Association of the University of Nova Scotia, about the $ 6 million in emergency funds that are being distributed. to two universities to eliminate the deficits of this fiscal year.

Last week, it was revealed that St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish will receive a $ 3.95 million rescue in operational funds, while King's College University in Halifax will get an additional $ 2.2 million.

Labi Kousoulis, the Minister of Advanced Education, said last week that the St. F.X. the financing was to cover interest and debts in the construction of new residences a decade ago, while the infusion of King's College was necessary to compensate the enrollment deficit in the humanities programs in which it specializes.

Stewart, a professor of philosophy at the University of Cape Breton, said the bailouts are similar to the $ 24.5 million in irregular secret funds provided by Acadia University in Wolfville for a five-year term ending in 2017.

"I'm not suggesting that any of the three universities we're talking about here do not need the money," Stewart said. "It's just that when the government has programs for which it is responsible, such as education or health care, funding must be transparent and transparent."

Stewart said the University of Cape Breton said a few years ago that it was in a financial crisis and that it did not have enough funds to the extent that it was going to lay off 20 percent of its faculty.

"That issue was never addressed by the government, rightly or wrongly, and at the same time, another university (Acadia) was obtaining unfamiliar funds that were not part of the transparent financing formula."

This year's operating subsidy for the 10 universities in the province, dispersed through the general financing formula, is $ 341 million. Before the emergency infusions, the St. F.X. the grant was $ 29.7 million and King received $ 5.9 million.

Stewart said that a memorandum of understanding facilitates the financing formula.

"The government is going through a process at this time to update that and that, if done fairly, should provide equitable (between) universities," Stewart said. "You may have equitable funding that is still inadequate and our main point here is that university funding is still inadequate and when done in an ad hoc manner, it may be inequitable."

An Advanced Education spokeswoman said universities are frank about their financial situations and any increase in operating pressures they face.

"University of King's College and St. FX" He had approached the province requesting additional financial support, "said Shannon Kerr." Where our goal is for all universities to reach a financially sustainable plateau before entering the new Memorandum of Understanding in 2019 , we wanted to make sure that each university was in a stable position, before providing the financing of the additional operational grant to both universities, and to complete our due diligence, we made a complete review of the financial situations and forecasts of both universities. Once it was determined that additional support was needed, funding was approved. "

Stewart said that the overall funding of the university has fallen back to the level of 2010 and that the annual increases of one percent provided by the liberal government do not cover increases in business costs each year.

"Therefore, every year we lose more money and, even with a large increase in student enrollment, universities need additional funding."

Stewart said that the Universities Accountability and Sustainability Act of 2015 leaves universities in a difficult situation.

"If a university is in financial trouble, the government can enter and take over the financial operation of it. My organization and the Canadian Association of University Professors had many problems with that, including the fact that it seemed to violate our academic freedom and our institutional autonomy. On the one hand, the government is holding that sword over the heads of the university students and, on the other hand, it is seen again in an ad hoc non-transparent way, distributing money from time to time. It's a bit difficult for institutions to discover exactly what the rules are. "

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