'Out of survival mode': Bishop's University to receive $4M financial boost

Bishop's University says it has been in negotiation with the Quebec government for the past three years in the hopes of increasing its funding. It is expecting a $4M envelope to help cover basic costs of operation.

Bishop's University says it is getting its fair share as Quebec divvies up funding to universities

Bishop's University has run a deficit for the past three years and says added funding will help it cover its basic administrative costs. (Krystel V. Morin/Bishop's University)

After three years of negotiations with the province, Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Que., says it is finally getting its due.  

The university says it's set to receive a $4-million annual increase in financing from the Quebec government, which will help keep afloat Quebec's smallest English-language university — student population, 2,400.  

"We'll be able to move from survival mode," said Bishop's interim vice-president of finance, Isabelle Goyette.

Fewer students, less income 

Bishop's has run a deficit for the last three years. 

In 2016, it had to take out a loan to pay for much-needed renovations to its student residences, hampering it with $1.5 million in annual interest payments over 25 years.

Until now, the school's entire operating budget has been less than $50 million.

Goyette says with such a small student population and such a tight budget, even covering basic administrative costs is a challenge. 

She explained that 70 per cent of government funding is on a per capita basis — a certain amount for each student.

"That makes it difficult for small universities that don't have that economy of scale," said Goyette.

Bishop's chronically underfunded

Goyette said until now, government funding to small universities such as Bishop's, Université du Québec à Rimouski (UQAR) and Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) has been distributed unevenly.

Those regional French-language universities were receiving a couple of million dollars more a year than Bishop's, Goyette said.

Bishop's had been pressuring the province to correct the situation for several years.

Goyette said getting the additional $4 million in annual financing will help Bishop's "plan for our sustainable future."

She said it won't be enough to provide extra services to students, but it will help the university survive.

Higher Education Minister Hélène David was not available for comment, but her office confirmed David supports the amount Bishop's is seeking.

It's still up to a budget allocations committee of the National Assembly to review the funding, but that's expected to be confirmed by the end of the month.

The $4 million is included in the nearly $500-million increase in funding for all the province's universities over the next five years, announced in this year's budget.

If approved, Bishop's is set to receive:

  • $4 million in recurring annual funding:
  • $2 million as a special mission grant.
  • $1 million in fixed teaching support to cover the basic costs of administering the university.
  • Increases of $300,000 in 2017-2018, $700,000 in 2018-2019 and $1M in 2019-2020.