By Nisean Lorde
Instead of a forecasted $3.9 million shortfall, the university expects it will have an extra $10.5 million to spend, Ryerson president Claude Lajeunesse told the finance committee on Monday.
The largest chunk of the money comes from an unexpected increase in the number of students at Ryerson, who Lajeunesse said bring in approximately $10,000 a head in tuition and government funding.
Between an increase in enrolment and a steep decline in the number of students who drop out, Ryerson has 1,000 more students than it expected to have this year.
Lajeunesse said the university has a lot of areas it can spend the money on.
“For the first time in seven years we can now invest a significant amount of dollars for priority activities,” he said.
Michael Guerriere, vice-chair of the Board of Governors, advised the committee that the extra money should be spent with caution, because much of it would be needed to pay for the additional students.
“Not a single dollar of this money is coming without a workload attached to it,” he said. “The deans are sweating bullets more about this than they would be if we were cutting $2 million out of the budget. I think we should be really careful about feeling this [surplus] tales the pressure off.”
Lajeunesse said that the university’s top priority was to hire more professors.
“This is a critical issue that we face, to be ready for next fall, and that we have to be ready to serve these additional students that are now on our campus as I speak,” he said.
Ryerson currently has about 500 faculty members, and it plans to hire 80 more for next year.
“We need to be as aggressive as we can right now,” said Lajeunesse, noting that other universities were also looking to hire new faculty.
Lajeunesse said it was a good time to be hiring because the weak economy had created a large pool of unemployed private sector workers with the qualifications to be professors.
“We should look at what’s happened to the Nortels of this world,” he said. “There are some people there with PhD’s with great, great knowledge of research [who] will be available, and that’s something that we have to move and we will move quickly.”
The second priority on the list is to increase faculty start-up funds needed to attract new professors.
“We have not been competitive in faculty start-ups, we’re as much as $15,000 to $20,000 behind,” Earl Aspevig, vice-president academic, told the committee.
Other expenditures on the list include increased funding to the library, classroom renovations and scholarships.
“We know that as we move to the double cohort, we’re attracting new students, we will have to provide additional scholarships,” says Lajeunesse.
“Scholarships are critical,” said Aspevig. “Our student quality has increased over the years. We want to provide the student with as much educational experience as we can.”
Increased funding for research efforts is also a top priority for the university.
“We have to support our research efforts in a better way,” said Lajeunesse. “Because of all this lack of revenue that Ryerson has … over the years, we have not provided our researchers with the same level of college grants, for example, that you would get in competing universities, and that’s hurting us. That’s the problem.”
The full budget will be released at next month’s finance committee meeting.