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Appendix A: Fiscal Blueprint consultation sessions questions and answers

International students have grown from about 7 per cent of the total student population in 2017 to about 11 per cent of the same in 2022. This represents a 4 per cent increase over this multiyear period, yet we expect to achieve 18 per cent in the short term. How do we expect to realize above trend growth rates in international recruitment? Does the demand exist? How does the recent Federal announcement impact this plan?

We started our internationalization plan in 2019 by connecting with external agents. After Year 1, we almost doubled our intake with over 200 new students. The growth plan assumes approximately 350 new undergraduate international students a year followed by the flow-through as they progress in subsequent years. These small numbers are not an unrealistic growth trend. It is important to note that this growth plan only brings us to the Ontario university average percentage, so we are not disproportionately large.

The risk of growing international enrolment may be the largest uncertainty in the budget assumptions. The recent federal announcement on capped offers will impact us but we do not know to what extent yet. It is important to note that the long-term vision has not altered. The current policy refers to a two year pause and we will be ready to attract more when/ if we can in the future.

We mitigate these risks in a few ways. For example: when recruiting, we have a very diverse mix of incoming students, for in-year planning we are conservative with the number of international students planned to attend (assumed 25 per cent less), and we have shifted our focus to course based masters to offsets the undergraduate losses.

Budget decisions always look different depending on perspective, but I thought I’d flag you to a general perspective that some areas that are direct support to student and teaching needs look like they are being `squeezed’ while other areas appear not to be. Can you elaborate on how we are improving the teaching focus if: conditions in classrooms have declined, student advisory services seem to be reduced, TA allocation have been reduced and space for student interface have been converted to other functions.

While we have invested $14M more into priority areas this question outlines how hard it is to keep up the quality of service and how each person perceives it.

  • We are investing over $8M in capital upgrades but much of the is behind the scenes such as the $1.2M required to replace a boiler. We have about $250K that is going into furniture replacement. We will do a full review this summer of each classroom and prioritize health and safety concerns.
  • Student advisory and TA allocations have increased each of the past three years. However, as noted in the paper much of this increase is covering mandatory wage increases. We have converted $2.5M PT funds to base so faculties can better plan for sessional and TAships in the future.

There appears to be more investment in the areas outside of the core teaching and research areas. Is this true?

The budget working group closely monitors this. The percentage of funds being directed to “instruction” as defined by the Council of Ontario Universities has been consistent over the past 5 years. This is increasing difficult to do as the increased revenue is coming tied to specific requirements such as ancillary fees going to health services, contracts going to Brilliant Catalyst, and donor awards going to financial aid.

Investment re: Sticky Campus. The Ontario Tech Student Union has heard complaints from students about this, such as the hours of the cafeteria. Some classes go until 9 p.m. but the cafeteria closes at 4 p.m. Will this change?

Our goal for ancillary services is to make a little profit so we can save for future repairs/investments. Moving into next year we are going to reallocate $500K from other commercial services to extend the hours, add two new locations and renovate in hopes this will bring the unit back to break-even while providing the service required.

I have been experiencing technical difficulties in the classrooms due to system disruption cables being disconnected or damaged equipment. While the AV team provides support quickly throughout the year, troubleshooting and waiting for replacement parts takes away from lecture time. Can the university monitor how these rooms are used as well as ways to prevent the system from being disrupted so that lecture time is not affected?

We are entering year 2 of a 3-year plan to replacement most podiums to make them more accessible and hope to solve some of the wiring concerns. This includes over $300K investment from the capital base. We will try to educate more on connecting various technologies to the podium and proper space. We are also starting a multi-year.

When looking at the investment the university should explore hiring an indigenous elder and review the amount this role is paid.

The university has started to explore this option. For 2024, the consultations with the Indigenous Advisory Committee led to a reallocation of funds in order to hire a dedicated Director position.  

Please provide us with the University's plan to fund graduate students in research programs (including tuition decrease for international students and any scholarships offered by the university).

In addition to freezing tuition, the university is in year three of rolling out the Graduate International Support Fund which in stead state will provide over $1.5M to offset international student tuition.

How do we think about physical space capacity, and capacity by department? This question is in context of current growth projections, and the aspiration to be a 20,000-student university. Do we have the infrastructure to support 20,000 students and is this aspiration built into the infrastructure plans?

Yes, this aspiration drives the infrastructure plans. The university has created its space principles based on the Council of Ontario Universities' standards that may be seen as a target to be achieved, a minimum to be met, a maximum not to be exceeded, an optimum to strive for, or a guideline to be used as a benchmark.

We do not currently have the infrastructure to support this growth. When we talk about saving more than $5M for deferred maintenance and future capital plans, this covers about a third of our medium-term needs. As noted in the space townhall at minimum we are estimating the need for 300,000 gross square feet of core academic space to accommodate 15,000 students if we do not change our current offerings. In 2022 dollars that is about $210M.

In our previous meetings it was stated that differentiated revenue is critical for the university's bottom line moving forward. When we develop innovative new programming, expecting resources to follow our revenue generation, how much revenue needs to go towards the university bottom line before it can flow back to resources? Is there a level of program profitability we should aim for to ensure sustainability?

The expectation is that units should be making a 30 per cent return on investment noting that most of that is re-invested back into new initiatives. For commercial services and revenue generating units there is a 5 per cent overhead plus space charge. The university invests start up funds into new projects through recruitment, advertising and provost strategic priority funds which equates to over $1M a year.