British Columbia

UNBC student society says it's financially stable 4 months after it revealed $100K debt

The student society at the University of Northern British Columbia says it has a plan to rein in spending after the group revealed it was more than $100,000 in debt in October 2016.

Long-term planning and short-term cuts have put the society back on financial track

The student society at UNBC revealed it was over $100,000 in debt in October 2016. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

The undergraduate student society of UNBC says it has a plan to rein in spending and dig out from under a mountain of debt.

The president of the student society at the University of Northern British Columbia says the group has made some changes and achieved some progress after an audit last year revealed it was over $100,000 in debt.

President Arctica Cunningham said the Northern Undergraduate Student Society, or NUGSS, made some cuts to salaries and events to bring the society back to more a stable position in the short term.

Most significantly the group was able to take a loan from UNBC to pay back the major debt they owed to the City of Prince George for the U-Pass program. The loan to UNBC will be paid back in stages, she said.

"We have been able to pay off our U-Pass payment to the City of Prince George with the help and support of UNBC. That's been really wonderful. We were glad to be able to meet that obligation in the deadline they set for us," she said.

Much of the debt came from the society trying to do too much with too little and from very limited long-term contingency planning, she said.

The members of the 2016-17 board of the Northern Undergraduate Student Society, or NUGSS, have made some changes to the group's fiscal management policies. (NUGSS/Facebook)

Cunningham admitted with one-year terms, it was difficult for student board members to plan ahead.

But with the help with the business community and the UNBC administration, Cunningham said the society has drafted a four-year plan to help manage the budget better.

The group has also created a debt management policy and a purchasing policy to help guide future boards.

Thirsty Moose ran up a big tab

Another major money drain on the society's resources was the society-run campus pub, The Thirsty Moose.

While the student society initially considered closing the pub or leasing the pub to a private operator, they received enough feedback from student to put the question to a referendum.

"We had a lot of students coming to us after making an announcement to say, 'Why don't you just charge us a fee specifically for the pub. I would like to pay a fee for the pub to stay open and to stay under the society's umbrella.' That was surprising," Cunningham said.

If the referendum fails, she said they will continue to pursue their original options regarding the pub.

The referendum is scheduled for March 20 and 21 to coincide with the new board elections.

Student Society president Arctica Cunningham says students have approached the society to pay extra student fees to save the society-run campus pub, the Thirsty Moose, from closure. (The Thirsty Moose/Facebook)

With files from Daybreak North


To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled UNBC student society says it's 'more financially stable' 4 months after it revealed $100K debt