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Home » University News

Message from Acting President John McGrath

Submitted by on 2019/12/11 – 8:30 am

Since my last update on November 18, the leadership team has continued to work on finalizing our budget reduction plans for 2019/20 and developing preliminary plans to balance our budget for 2020/21 and 2021/22.

When we received our Campus Alberta Grant letter in November, the Minister of Advanced Education formally requested that our Board of Governors provide a budget impact plan that outlined how we are managing reductions to the grant for this fiscal year. This plan was prepared by administration and sent to the minister on December 2 by our board chair, Carolyn Graham. The plan describes our overall approach, our planning priorities and principles, and highlights key important budget planning assumptions for this year and next. This is a summary of what was included in the plan that was sent to the minister:

  • A reduction target of up to $3.5 million in discretionary non-salary expenditures has been established. Reductions will be sought in areas to minimize impacts to students and reduce administrative expenditures. These include travel, hosting and events, office supplies, contracted services and other non-salary expenditures.
  • Tuition and fee increases to maximize our revenue streams in accordance with what is allowable under the legislation. This is being done in consultation with students and a recommendation on proposed increases will be presented to the board at the upcoming December meeting.
  • Discussions for alternative revenue generation sources are in the preliminary stages, in anticipation of changes to government policy.
  • Led by the provost, and in consideration of strategic enrolment management plans, a review of program costs to identify efficiencies in delivery while maintaining quality, access and choice for students. A review of the university’s programs will include an assessment of the:
    • Current mix of majors and minors within current programs;
    • Sustainability of options, electives, section choices and fill rates;
    • Instructional hour values for consistency;
    • Class size and configurations to optimize efficiency;
    • Over the longer-term, identifying programs that cannot be offered more efficiently that may have to be reconsidered.
  • Implementation of workforce strategies to reduce non-instructional faculty and administrative staff costs, including vacancy management, hiring restrictions and functional reviews.
  • Discussions with other institutions to identify opportunities for coordination and collaboration, including in procurement, information technology and academic programming.

The review of student advising at the university has been completed and a final report presented to Executive Council. I have accepted the recommendations from the provost on a new student advising model that will be implemented in the next year. We will share more information in mid-January about the model and potential staffing impacts at an information session specifically for advising staff from across the university. Recommendations on other functional reviews are expected later in January. We will continue to work with our university leadership and our associations to explore options for balancing the budget.

Our immediate focus is our target of an annual $3.5 million in reductions to non-salary discretionary expenses effective in the 2020/21 budget. This is a significant portion of our non-salary budget – and we want to focus on this first so we can lessen the future impact of budget reductions on staff. I am not sure yet that we can reach this target, but the vice-presidents have been assigned reduction targets and will report back in mid-December on the impact of those reductions.

I appreciate the ideas many of you have put forward to my office. These include generating revenue through increased rentals of our facilities to community members, shortening work weeks to reduce salary costs, and reducing expenditures on hosting and social events. Know that these suggestions are taken seriously and are being incorporated into our planning. All departments are required to look at reductions in discretionary spending where possible. Two suggestions that we will be implementing immediately are cancelling the annual holiday celebration and eliminating office beverage subsidies for employees (e.g., coffee, tea, water), both of which had been heavily subsidized by the university. I understand that there will be disappointment with these decisions, but actions like these will help us reduce future impacts to staffing.

Please continue to share efficiency and revenue generation ideas with me at I welcome the thoughtful suggestions, but more than this, I appreciate that they show the commitment that we all have to the university and the work we do here – and how much we care for our colleagues.

We are working hard to manage the challenge of concurrently balancing our current-year budget, as we also work to prepare a 2020/21 budget to recommend to the board. I need your help in reducing discretionary expenditures wherever possible for the remainder of the fiscal year to help us balance the budget.

This is a time of profound change. On behalf of the entire executive team, thank you for your ongoing patience as we work through these challenges. We are committed to sharing new developments with you, and will continue to communicate as we learn more.

Thank you,

John McGrath
Acting President