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King'$ comes up $hort

When a university faces a $1.1 million deficit and $5 million in debt, what measures should be taken?
For King’s, the fix won’t be all that simple – and the school could lose its independent status.
There’s no guarantee the deficit and debt will lead King’s to this end, but it’s something that has caused a concern, or in some cases, plenty of excitement.
One professor who likes the sound of that idea is Wayne Hankey.
In an email to the Watch, Hankey said, “I do not believe that we can afford both our academic programs and the marks of institutional independence.” He declined requests for an in-person interview.
He wrote a response to the task force report, released in October, saying it’s overambitious to depend mainly on recruitment techniques and a rise in enrolment to counteract the deficit.
Hankey said a merger with Dalhousie is not only the most profitable choice for King’s, but it’s inevitable.
Many people are hesitant to agree and think a merger is not in the school’s best interest, but most admit it is something that must be considered.
Right now, the college is facing a hefty deficit and debt because of low enrolment, cuts to government funding and overdue campus maintenance. All of these problems have been accumulating year to year, and if they aren’t addressed, the university could see itself another $1 million in the red for next year.
The university has also lost $2 million in revenue over the past two years.
The bursar’s office has paid off $30,000 and plans to strike out another $100,000 by hiring fewer FYP faculty due to decreased enrolment.
The anticipated sale of the dean’s old residence will hack off another $475,000, but the school is still $500,000 short.
To combat this immediate shortage, and explore options for long-term sustainability, the university appointed the Long-term Financial Strategy Task Force. This committee, made up of staff and faculty, as well as students and members of the Board of Governors, met multiple times over the summer to create a report that outlines recommendations for counteracting the deficit.
Some of these recommendations require a long-term approach, such as a heavy focus on recruitment and retention, while other recommendations are short-term approaches, such as a one-year faculty salary freeze.

Journalism professor Stephen Kimber has formed a faculty working group with fellow colleagues to look at other short-term options instead of a salary freeze
“(It) creates all kinds of complications because they’re saying it’s voluntary, it’s universal, and it’s temporary, but when we looked at it none of those things are true,” Kimber says.
One of the options the working group explored is taking a draw of five per cent from the school’s endowment, instead of the annual four per cent we now take. The difference between  four per cent and five per cent at King’s is about $300,000, which is the same amount the task force is looking for from the salary freeze.
What this means for students
According to the report the long-term approach will hold recruiting and retention strategies as top priority. It plans on a student population of around 1,200 for the 2015-16 academic year, which is about 100 more students than we have this year.
The report said every time FYP loses one per cent of students, it’s a loss of $100,000 for the school. Those new students could potentially give the university about $2.5 million in revenue.
In order to make this increased recruitment possible, the report said “every faculty member, student and staff member at King’s must see themselves are responsible for recruitment and retention of students.”
It also said it’s discussing the decision to move some administrative duties of the registrar’s office to Dalhousie – a suggestion that will allow that office to focus more on retention and recruitment, said the task force.
However, some people are opposed to this attention on retention and recruitment, saying it makes students into merely a source of revenue.

The KSU’s take
“I think that it’s a very important time for the college,” KSU president Michaela Sam says.
In addition to setting up an email account where students can get information about the task force report ( the KSU is holding meetings where students can discuss the report and its recommendations.
One of these meetings was the Sept. 28 council meeting. Before the final draft of the report was distributed, president George Cooper and bursar Jim Fitzpatrick met with the KSU to officially inform them of both the deficit and the possible solutions proposed by the task force.
The KSU urged students to attend this council meeting.
The concern expressed in the meeting’s minutes was that further pressure would be placed on students, which could result in an increase of future tuition fees.
Council asked whether Cooper and Fitzpatrick would join the students in advocating for further government funding, to which they did not give a definite answer.
While an increase in tuition fees was not discussed during council, Fitzpatrick now says an increase is inevitable and students should expect fees to go up within the 2015-2016 year.
“While I’d love to say no, I don’t see any other option,” he says. “Given our financial situation we will most certainly join with every other Canadian university this coming year to increase our tuition fees. There’s no question, it’s just a matter of how much.”
What’s next?
King’s professor Elizabeth Edwards is a sitting member of the budget committee and was nominated as a faculty representative for the task force.
“My main aim at the moment (would be) that we not fall into division because I think there are serious problems here,” she said. “I think it’s true that faculty, staff and students need to know what the other is thinking
“Our current problems are going to need our whole college to be involved in the solution.”
The Board of Governors is currently adjourned to discuss the report with constituents and stakeholders.
They will meet again on Dec. 11. Board meetings are closed to all, except member

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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