Sudbury's Laurentian University to see first deficit in 7 years

Laurentian University will be in the red this year, after seven years with a balanced budget. The school’s board of governors recently approved a budget for 2018-2019 that could see the university rack up a $4.4 million deficit.

Board of governors approve $4.4M deficit in 2018-2019 budget

Laurentian University is planning for a deficit for the first time in seven years. The school's board of governors recently approved a new budget that includes $4.4 million one-time deficit. (Sophie Houle-Drapeau/Radio-Canada)

Laurentian University will be in the red this year, after seven years with a balanced budget.

The school's board of governors recently approved a budget for 2018-2019 that could see the university rack up a $4.4 million deficit.

The budget focuses on investments in the five year strategic plan the university launched in January, according to Interim President Pierre Zundel.

"Maintaining our momentum, investing in our strategic plan and moving towards sustainability are the three objectives," Zundel said.

"What the board did in this decision last Friday was essentially to make a vote of confidence in the university and say, 'okay, in order to help us maintain that momentum, in order to invest in some of those things in the strategic plan, we are going to allow you to to run a deficit of up to $4.4 million."

Pierre Zundel, Laurentian University's vice president academic and provost, insists the school is working towards hiring more social work faculty. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

Investments in mental health, graduate studies

Among the investments in the strategic plan are additional support for Indigenous programming and increased resources for French-language programs and services. Zundel said mental health and wellness will also be a major priority.

"One of the things that we've heard a lot all through the [strategic] plan consultations and also in our budget consultations was the need to improve supports for mental health in the community, particularly for students."

The budget also reflects some of the challenges post-secondary students in the north are facing, including changing demographics and a decrease in enrolment.

"The number of students leaving high school is going down, has been going down for some time and will continue to go down for many years now. So that presents a real challenge for us, and there's increasing competition in southern Ontario," Zundel explained.

He said the 2018-2019 budget included investments in domestic and international graduate recruitment to help combat these challenges.

"We know that the tremendous growth in research at Laurentian that we've had in the last number of years has created some real opportunities in graduate studies, because those two things go hand in hand."

The university plans to return to a balanced budget by 2019-2020, but Zundel said it will keep a close eye on any spending moving forward.

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