UBC and SFU post budgetary surpluses despite COVID-19

Several smaller postsecondary institutions also survived the first year of the pandemic without recording large deficits

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      From a purely financial perspective, B.C.’s two largest postsecondary institutions have weathered the pandemic quite well.

      The University of British Columbia forecast a $225-million deficit in the 2020-21 fiscal year ending March 31.

      Yet the university actually posted an $81.7-million consolidated accounting surplus, according to its most recent financial statement.

      Overall revenues of $2.92 billion in the last fiscal year were nine percent higher than forecast in the UBC budget. One reason was a $112-milllion spike in revenues from government grants and contracts over the previous year.

      In the financial statement, UBC vice president of finance and operations Peter Smailes and comptroller Karamjeet Heer noted that the bottom line was boosted by higher investment income than anticipated, one-time sales of two UBC spin-off companies, and lower-than-expected costs related to sales and service revenues.

      In addition, revenue from tuition and student fees increased by $30.5 million when it was actually forecast to fall by nearly $86.5 million. That’s a whopping $117-million difference.

      Simon Fraser University also exceeded expectations in its budget for the first year of the pandemic.

      It forecast revenues of $802.1 million but ended the fiscal year at $825.4 million. Part of the reason was $19.7 million more than expected from the provincial government and $10.9 million more than expected from the federal government.

      Tuition revenue also exceeded expectations at SFU, coming in at $286.8 million rather than the $274.8 million that was anticipated. Other factors helping SFU’s bottom line included 36 percent higher-than-expected investment income and a three percent drop in instructional expenses.

      SFU’s annual operating surplus of $53.5 million was 3.8 percent higher than forecast.

      “We began the year with news of a global pandemic, which resulted in moving our entire education, research and community engagement activities online in record time. At the same time, the university transitioned to a new president,” SFU president Joy Johnson wrote in the annual financial report. “In the face of these changes this past year, I could not be more proud of how the SFU community pulled together in creative and meaningful ways to support one another.”

      Smaller institutions also fared quite well

      Several of Metro Vancouver’s smaller postsecondary institutions also emerged from the pandemic with their finances in order.

      Capilano University ended up with a $7.7-million annual surplus even though tuition-fee revenue fell by more than $8 million. A major factor was a $16.1-million reduction in costs.

      Trinity Western University ended up $28.8 million in the black, which was more than $9 million better than the result in the 2020 fiscal year. It was largely due to a sharp decrease in operating costs.

      Meanwhile, Emily Carr University of Art + Design anticipated a $754,956 deficit in the budget but ended up with a $1.7-million surplus. That was due to higher-than-anticipated tuition-fee revenue and a higher-than-expected provincial grant.

      The British Columbia Institute of Technology anticipated a balanced budget but ended up with a $4.6-million surplus, mostly thanks to a bigger provincial grant. At BCIT, tuition revenue was $5.1 million lower than expected.

      It was a similar story at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, which posted a $4.2-million surplus despite an 11-percent drop in tuition revenue.

      Douglas College recorded a $15.7-million annual surplus, despite $11.7 million less tuition-fee revenue than expected. The largest savings came in reductions in expenses on instruction and support.

      The only Metro Vancouver public postsecondary institution to post a deficit in its last fiscal year was Vancouver Community College. It had a $3.2-million shortfall on revenues of $122.7 million.

      As the Straight went to the printer, Langara College had not posted its 2021 financial statement on its website.

      Postsecondary institutions have foundations that offer tax receipts to those hoping to fund scholarships for students, capital projects, and other worthy educational initiatives. Anyone interested in making a donation or including an academic institution in their will should contact its website for more information.

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