CBU Board extremely concerned and angered over unfair funding process

Cape Breton University officials said today that they will be seeking an immediate meeting with the Honourable Labi Kousoulis, Provincial Minister of Labour and Advanced Education, as well as Liberal MLA’s Geoff MacLellan and  and Derek Mombourquette, following revelations of last week’s Public Accounts committee concerning the provincial government’s financial bailout of Acadia University.

Last week it was made public that Acadia University has received $24.5 million in incremental operating grants and loan forgiveness from the Province of Nova Scotia from 2011 – 2017. In explaining the action, provincial officials stated that Acadia was financially disadvantaged through a change in the funding formula for universities that was put in place back in 2009 and further, noted that no other university had requested financial assistance from the Province.

“That simply is not the case,” says Cape Breton University President Dale Keefe. “We have on multiple occasions briefed the government on the challenges at CBU and have in fact, requested support.”

CBU Board Chair Robert Sampson says both he and his Executive are furious over learning of this situation. “CBU spoke out loud and clear back in 2008 when the revised funding formula was then introduced, stating that it was simply unfair to smaller universities situated outside of the Metro area and driven almost exclusively based on student enrolment.”

Sampson noted the immediate effect on CBU was a loss of approximately $6 million per annum in provincial operating funding on a go forward basis, while the same formula amendment caused little or no change to many of the larger institutions, adding, “Our University’s loss was just about on par with that of Acadia and in fact, represents a higher percentage loss of provincial funding support. The implications for our University have been very challenging.”

Sampson also stated, “The fact is, it appears now we had mistakenly believed the Provincial Government’s direction back in 2009 was sincere and necessary, and that there would be no more additional funding, which was later reconfirmed by Bill 100 which enshrined this position. As it now appears, this was simply not the case. None the less, in spite of expressing our strenuous concerns our Board took the responsible path and carried out significant cuts in our operating budget in 2009 and have continued to do so since then. The ripple effect of this has and continues to reach far and wide to our students, faculty and our community. The Provincial officials were very much aware of this during a time where CBU had to make some difficult decisions that affected many of our stakeholders. We have been engaged in regular discussions with Provincial officials on this topic for many years.”

Sampson went on to say, “In fact the Province knew the existing formula was not working and have already committed to revisiting the 2008 funding formula model in accordance with the terms of the current MOU between the Province and all of its universities. That clearly confirms that they knew the existing formula was financially choking several smaller institutions, such as CBU. The reality is that the Province rebuffed all requests and suggestions we advanced involving incremental funding to CBU while addressing the 2008 funding formula fallout for the other Nova Scotia institutions which were negatively impacted at that time. This is baffling and lacks any shred of fairness to our institution and to our community.”

Keefe added, “To the best of my knowledge, every university in Nova Scotia, and certainly CBU, repaid the provincial loans issued to universities in 2011 under the Strategic Opportunities Fund Incorporated (SOFI). The government was quite clear in requiring universities to repay those loans, yet now we learn it was forgiven for Acadia alone. This loss of funding and requirement to repay the SOFI loan has forced CBU to make many difficult decisions over this period.”

According to Keefe, university presidents will soon be meeting with Minister Kousoulis and DLAE departmental officials to express their concerns.

A special emergency meeting of the CBU Board of Governors’ Executive Committee is scheduled for Wednesday of this week to discuss CBU’s next steps in dealing with this matter.