While students will see a three per cent increase in tuition costs, no cuts will be made to academic portfolios in the 2014-2015 academic year according to the operating budget UNB announced on Wednesday.
The 185.8 million dollar budget was balanced without decreasing funding for the academic and research portfolio, which includes student services and faculty positions. This marked a change from the academic budget cuts of previous years.
“Academic budget envelopes have been protected from budget reductions. This means that there is not going to be cuts as there has been in previous years,” said Dan Murray, UNB’s vice-president of finance and corporate services.
“I’m happy to say that this year’s budget will not affect faculty positions. There are no lay-offs planned and each campus has developed their budgets to minimize impacts on student services and academic operations.”
This decision was not a result of the non-confidence motions passed by faculties earlier this year.
“There was a strategic decision to protect the academic envelopes that was identified as a priority before the motions,” Murray said.
Murray said the insulation of academic budgets was made possible in part by a two per cent increase in provincial operating funding. A three per cent increase in tuition fees was also a contributing factor.
Although it’s not welcome news to students, the tuition increase follows the recommendations from the provincial government.
The UNBSU argued that the government shouldn’t have allowed the increase in the first place.
“Obviously, the fact that the government has let the universities raise tuition without increasing the amount they’re providing students in financial aid isn’t something that we’re happy to see,” said Greg Bailey, president of the UNBSU.
“This is only going to make post-secondary education less accessible for the students who need it most.”
However, the new operating budget will be giving more money back to the students than in previous years. One area that will see an increase in funding is UNB’s counseling services – something that was strongly advocated by the UNBSU.
“We are glad to see that the university has put more money towards mental health. When I brought up UNB’s mental health services at the university budget meeting last month, they were quick to point out that they had given more funding,” Bailey said.
Rice Fuller, executive director of student affairs and services, said the funding will go towards meeting the needs of the ever-growing body of students who require counselling.
“I am very excited about the additional funding that counselling services is receiving,” Fuller said.
“It is important because UNB Counselling Services has been seeing significant increases in both the number of students requesting service and in the complexity of the problems that students come to us with.”
This expansion of services will include support for up to two Ph.D. level counselling psychology students as well as online programs for students. Emphasis will also be placed on outreach and prevention.
“Too much of our time and effort is spent on providing services to students who are already experiencing crises and significant problems,” Fuller said.
“By focusing some of our efforts on these groups we hope that it is less likely that students will get to the point where they are in a crisis or experiencing significant problems in the first place.”