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Posted: February 12, 2021

PSIs getting budget deficit break

The Government of British Columbia announced today (Feb. 12) it is supporting post-secondary students, staff and faculty with new changes that aim to offer more financial flexibility for public post-secondary institutions (PSIs) impacted by COVID-19, including College of the Rockies.

With this change, PSIs are now approved to run budget deficits for two fiscal years, using surpluses earned in previous years to maintain current operations in a manner that supports students and the labour force.

Under existing legislation, PSIs cannot incur annual deficits from operations without prior approval from government. This multi-year approval by government also recognizes the need for an additional fiscal year for some PSIs to address the impact of COVID-19 on operations as they plan for greater numbers of students likely studying on campuses later this year, as public health orders allow.

During COVID-19, PSIs have seen reduced revenues and increased expenses as they work to continue to safely deliver classes. Reduced enrolment has meant lower tuition fee revenue. Additionally, a reduced presence on campus has resulted in a loss of revenue from parking, bookstores, reduced student housing, food services and academic conferences. Most PSIs have also incurred additional costs related to moving courses online as well as increased safety measures to protect students, staff and faculty who are on campus.

“I would like to thank our post-secondary institutions for the hard work they have done during this unprecedented year to support their campus communities and keep people safe,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training. “We’re providing stability so PSIs that have seen extra costs and lower revenue can navigate the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, while continuing to support students, staff and faculty, and deliver top-quality post-secondary education for people.”

“Post-secondary institutions have worked tirelessly to safely support British Columbians in their educational goals while facing the continued challenge of COVID-19,” added Selina Robinson, Minister of Finance. “The ability to work within a deficit over the next two years is one of the ways we can ensure these institutions can work through this difficult period and into a strong economic recovery, while continuing to provide educational opportunities for the next generation of British Columbians.”

Deficit approval represents a conservative forecast for public post-secondary institutions’ (PSIs) budgets ending on March 31.

It is not uncommon for a PSI to forecast a deficit and end the fiscal year with a balanced or small surplus, a Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training media release stated.

For 2020-21, 20 PSIs are approved for deficits up to $178.9 million, including College of the Rockies.

For 2021-22, 17 PSIs are approved for deficits up to $75.2 million, including College of the Rockies.

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