Cape Breton University forced to repay similar provincial funding
CBU unhappy over Acadia bailout.
Cape Breton University officials are concerned and angry following the provincial government’s financial bailout of Acadia University.
Last week it was made public that the Wolfville university received $24.5 million in incremental operating grants and loan forgiveness from the province of Nova Scotia between 2011-17.
Provincial officials have said Acadia was financially disadvantaged through a change in the funding formula for universities that was put in place in 2009 and that no other university had requested financial assistance from the province.
CBU board chair Robert Sampson said Wednesday both he and the executive committee are upset after learning about the bailout last week in a news release.
“CBU spoke out loud and clear back in 2008 when the revised funding formula was then introduced, stating that it was simply unfair to smaller universities situated outside of the metro (Halifax) area and driven almost exclusively based on student enrolment.”
In the last several years, CBU has had to cut jobs and close venues on campus, including the Canada Games Complex, which is now being managed by the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
Sampson said the effect on CBU was a loss close to Acadia’s of $6 million a year in provincial operating funding.
“Bottom line was, we were going to have to go out and find five million bucks and Acadia had to find six million bucks,” said Sampson. “I guess where we part company with Acadia is that we went out and did it. We did lots of cuts and we’re probably down 75-80 people and our student population has remained the same.”
In a news release, Cape Breton University acting president Dale Keefe echoed Sampson’s frustration over the bailout received by Acadia University.
“To the best of my knowledge, every university in Nova Scotia, and certainly CBU, repaid the provincial loans issued to universities in 2011 under the Strategic Opportunities Fund Incorporated,” said Keefe.
“The government was quite clear in requiring universities to repay those loans, yet now we learn it was forgiven for Acadia alone. This loss of funding and requirement to repay the SOFI loan has forced CBU to make many difficult decisions over this period.”
Sampson said CBU officials are seeking an immediate meeting with Labi Kousoulis, the provincial minister of labour and advanced education, as well as MLAs Geoff MacLellan and Derek Mombourquette.
The Nova Scotia Labour and Advanced Education Department has not confirmed the meeting, however in a written statement on Wednesday, Kousoulis said:
“We look at each university separately. Each has its own unique set of opportunities and challenges. No two universities are in the same situation. We have been in discussions with Cape Breton University and advised them in June that they will receive additional operational funding beginning in 2017/18,” said Kousoulis.
The minister went on to say he believes the additional funding will help maintain quality and sustainable universities for students and support for their communities and local businesses.
“My door is always open to meet with university presidents.”
Also on Wednesday, the CBU board of governors executive committee held a meeting to discuss CBU’s next steps to deal with this matter.
Sampson said ultimately the decision by the provincial government is discouraging for Cape Breton University.
“It’s very upsetting when you learn that it appears that you’ve been mistreated,” said Sampson. “After you rose to the occasion and accepted the government for its word that there was no more (funding) and that tough decisions had to be made, only to learn that didn’t necessarily apply to everyone.”