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Sudbury university looking at $6M deficit this year, $15M by end of next year

Pandemic has created "significant financial challenges" for Laurentian University heading into 2020-21

The COVID-19 outbreak could potentially put Sudbury’s Laurentian University in a projected $15-million bind for the upcoming 2020-2021 fiscal year.

In an April 29 release, the university announced it is “facing significant financial challenges” arising from the pandemic and other “pre-existing financial pressures.”

“If we don't take action, the combination of a potential enrolment drop, our pre-existing financial challenges and new impacts of COVID-19, could be the tipping point that threatens the financial viability of the university," said university president Robert Haché in a statement.

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Just for the current fiscal year, Laurentian had been tracking a small deficit of less than $1 million for the term, ending April 30, but the pandemic could balloon that to approximately $6 million.

In looking ahead to the next fiscal year, prior to COVID, Laurentian had been at work examining various cost-cutting measures to address a projected $9-million shortfall for 2020-2021, caused by provincial funding cuts and frozen domestic tuition fees.

Post-COVID, that deficit for 2020-21 now looks to be approximately $15 million.

“The pandemic has created an additional and urgent financial crisis for Laurentian,” said Lorella Hayes, vice-president of administration. “Our university has faced financial challenges over the past few years. We were, however, implementing our sustainability plan and seeing significant positive results.”

The university said it's making moves to balance the next budget, but won't do so at the expense of students’ overall academic success and experience.

Those immediate cost-cutting measures include a suspension of all new hiring; deferring or eliminating numerous vacant positions; reducing casual, part-time, and limited term contracts; and stopping all non-essential operating expenses.

The university is holding a community town hall to share their financial situation and ask for "bold new ideas.”

“In the last few years, we have come together as a community, harnessing the ingenuity of our workforce to find sustainable solutions,” said Haché. 

In making an early transition to remote learning at the beginning of the outbreak, Laurentian said the “vast majority” of its students are on track to complete the term on time.

“Our goal continues to provide our students with an exceptional university experience and to maintain Laurentian as the leading Northern Ontario university,” said Haché.