Memorial University looks for ways to trim costs after bigger than expected budget cut

Government to MUN: Keep tuition freeze, or else

Unexpected cuts in the recent provincial budget means a four-year fiscal plan at Memorial University is being thrown out the window after just one year, and an ongoing search for efficiencies will be intensified.

MUN president Gary Kachanoski said Monday the university is grappling with an $11.9-million cut to its operating grant, more than double what was expected.

He said there are additional impacts for the faculty of medicine that are still being analyzed, and the government has also indicated further cuts are coming in future years.

"So we have to decide how we're going to change our budget reduction procedures and whether or not we have to look at any revenue opportunities that exist as well," Kachanoski said during an interview in Corner Brook.

'I'm not giving guarantees'

Kachanoski's reference to revenue opportunities begs the question: Will MUN lift the tuition freeze that's been in place for Newfoundland and Labrador students since 2003, making MUN the lowest-cost university in Canada outside of Quebec?

"I'm not giving guarantees for anything," Kachanoski said, despite the fact the tuition offset grant provided by the government has increased to $56.4 million, up from $52.4 million.

The fiscal outlook for the university appeared to be established, with the provincial government laying out a four-year funding plan last year.

But Kachanoski said government's allocation represented a deeper cut than was expected.

As a result, he said some "intensive discussions and decision-making" are now underway to deal with the reduced grant.

Those consultations will involve the senate, senior academic groups, and the Board of Regents.

He said a budget proposal could be presented to the board in May, and he would not rule out any measures, including a possible increase in tuition.

"It's six-and-a-half-million-dollars of additional cuts that we're going to have to find and those are real cuts," he said.

That's on top of some significant reductions in recent years, including the elimination of 60 positions.