Queen’s University says it’s imposing an immediate freeze on hiring for full-time positions as the school projects a large deficit for 2023-24.
The university says in response to cumulative financial pressures it will run a $62.8 million operating budget deficit, with projected expenses significantly outpacing income the school looks to receive from tuition payments.
It’s the second straight year they’ve run a deficit, and Queen’s puts the bulk of the blame on the province for freezing tuition fee raises in response to the pandemic.
“The impact of the provincial government’s 10 per cent tuition cut for Ontario students in 2019, and subsequent tuition freeze, has cost the university $179.4 million to date,” the university’s statement reads.
“Ongoing inflationary costs and a decline in international student enrolment in the aftermath of the pandemic have added to the budgetary strain.”
Queen’s, like other universities, has been limited to raising tuition in line with inflation over the last several years, with many Canadian institutions continuing to grow faster than that rate.
The university says mitigation strategies are underway like attempting to boost international enrollment alongside cost containment.
New jobs at the university will be one casualty of the university’s journey back to a balanced budget.
The university has not said that any existing jobs will be cut, but no new positions will be posted for hiring unless a critical need is identified on a case by case basis.
The school did however find room in the budget for a new Provost and Vice Principal role, announced just days before the budget deficit.
Interim Provost Terri Shearer said that was a necessary move and aligns with the university’s strategic framework.
“We’re being proactive in managing our drawdowns because we want to continue to make progress on our strategic goals, we don’t want the university to sit stagnant during this period,” Shearer said.
“So that was a deliberate investment in advancing the university’s strategic goals.”
Queen’s will be relying on its financial reserves throughout the upcoming academic year which Donna Janiec, Vice-Principal of Finance and Administration says isn’t a sustainable model.
“The university has been fortunate to build up reserves to help weather difficult financial situations, but ongoing reliance on these reserves is not sustainable,” Janiec said.
“Acting now to mitigate our in-year deficit will provide runway to collaborate with the community on the difficult task of achieving a balanced budget by 2025/26.”
Queen’s Principal Patrick Deane has previously lobbied then Ontario government to end the tuition freeze, meanwhile grad students have said the freeze hasn’t gone far enough and Queen’s should do away with their tuition altogether.
Shearer added that the school has committed to running a much smaller deficit in 2024/25 and to having a balanced budget in 2025/26.