Faced with a number of challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Algoma University Board of Governors approved a balanced $43.3 million operating budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year. Approval of the budget was deferred from late April to allow for further analysis of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2020-21 budget was adjusted downwards to reflect the uncertainty of the impact of the pandemic on budgeted enrolment. Due to a number of factors, including current travel restrictions and the uncertainty of timelines for the return to face-to-face teaching and learning, an initial enrolment forecast of 2,300 full-time equivalent (FTE) students was reduced by 24% to a budgeted enrolment of 1,739 (FTE).
The budget includes targeted and prudent investments to support student success and wellbeing, e-Learning enhancements, and the completion of select externally-funded infrastructure/construction projects in Brampton and Sault Ste. Marie.
As part of the budget process, the University reviewed all discretionary spending and delayed a number of planned hires. Given ongoing uncertainty, the University will continue to monitor all expenditures, and make any needed changes once enrolment for the 2020-21 academic year is known.
“The Board of Governors supports the prudent, student-centred decisions that are reflected in the 2020-21 budget presented this evening,” said Dr. David Nanang, Chair of the Board of Governors. “Although this is a challenging time for our community and for all sectors of the economy, this budget addresses the realities of the current environment. We continue to focus on Algoma University’s long-term strategic growth, through investment in innovative academic programming while maintaining a student-centred approach to operations aligned with the University’s identified priorities.”
Last month, Algoma announced that all programming would be delivered remotely during the upcoming spring term, with decisions on fall term to be announced in the coming weeks. The University has made significant investments to support the successful transition to high-quality technologically assisted instruction, leveraging the expertise of Contact North and PowerED by Athabasca.
Algoma’s recruitment team has been working hard to engage prospective students in a variety of innovative ways, including a recent virtual Open House. In addition, the Student Success team has been checking in with students individually, supporting personal wellbeing, advising, course registration and other student needs. “One of the unique strengths of Algoma University is our focus on small class sizes and strong relationships and interactions with students, which has meant we can provide a truly supportive environment as we navigate together the challenges of COVID-19,” noted Dr. Donna Rogers, Provost and Academic Dean. In order to offset financial hardships resulting from the pandemic, the University has also invested significantly in new bursaries for students. This builds upon the Student Emergency Fund, which has to date provided support to over 225 students facing COVID-19 related financial hardship.
With financial support secured last year from the City of Brampton, the University continues to move forward to the next phase of campus expansion in the city’s downtown core. Additional student space, classrooms and labs will support long-term growth resulting from the introduction of new programming in Computer Science and Psychology, as well as the creation of the Centre for Social, Cultural and Economic Innovation. Funded by the Algoma University Students’ Union (AUSU), construction will also occur at Algoma’s Sault Ste. Marie campus, redeveloping the Speakeasy student space.
“The 2020-21 Algoma University budget reinforces our relentless commitment to students and employees while addressing the new realities and uncertainty brought on by COVID-19,” said President and Vice-Chancellor Asima Vezina. “The budget demonstrates the University’s continued focus on student experience while supporting innovation in teaching and learning. Although we have had to put some plans on hold, we continue to work with FedNor, NOHFC and other funding agencies to identify opportunities to support the communities and regions we serve, as well as our ongoing commitment to being a leader in truth, reconciliation, and healing in Canada. I would like to extend a word of gratitude to our broader community for their support during this unprecedented period in our history.”