Sudbury, Ontario, April 29, 2020 — Laurentian University today announced that it is facing significant financial challenges arising from COVID-19. While the full impacts of the pandemic on the university sector remain to be seen and understood, COVID-19 and other pre-existing financial pressures require the University to amend and accelerate its sustainability plan to address a shortfall of approximately $15 million in fiscal year 2020-21.
“In the last few years, we have come together as a community, harnessing the ingenuity of our workforce to find sustainable solutions. We will continue to prove that by working together-ensemble-maamwi, we can find and implement creative solutions to the COVID-19 challenge,” said Dr. Robert Haché, Laurentian University President and Vice-Chancellor.
“The pandemic has created an additional and urgent financial crisis for Laurentian,” said Lorella Hayes, Vice President, 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’s financial picture has been a topic of much discussion by the Laurentian Board of Governors and community as it has worked to ensure a sustainable future during challenging times. Prior to COVID-19, Laurentian University was tracking for a small deficit of less than $1 million for the current fiscal year, which ends on April 30, 2020. The pandemic could bring the University to a deficit of approximately $6 million for the current fiscal year.
In addition, pre-COVID-19, the University was already addressing a $9 million shortfall in its upcoming fiscal year 2020-2021, resulting mainly from the permanent reduction and frozen domestic tuition fees and reductions in provincial funding levels. Laurentian was executing on a balanced approach of continued cost reductions and enrolment growth. The University is now amending its financial forecast, and planning for additional cost reductions to ensure the 2020-21 budget can be balanced.
“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," says Dr. Robert Haché.
Laurentian will be doing everything possible to ensure it doesn’t come to that. The University is actively exploring opportunities to mitigate the financial risk and to support new and existing students. The University is holding a town hall to share information on the financial challenges with its community members and call on them to share bold new ideas. It has also taken a number of immediate actions, including:
- Suspension of new employment hiring;
- Deferral or elimination of numerous vacant positions;
- Reduction in casual, part time and limited term contracts;
- Suspension of all non-essential operating expenses.
“These difficult decisions were not made on the basis of performance, but rather, on the basis of our financial challenges,” affirms Lorella Hayes. “We thank our colleagues and workforce for their immense contributions to the University. All these employees performed important and valuable work — we hope to be able to offer them work again in the future.”
Laurentian will accelerate the implementation of its existing sustainability plan. The University also has a number of additional measures and sustainability initiatives under consideration.
“Laurentian has the highest post university graduation employment rates in the province,” indicates Dr. Robert Haché. “We want our students and potential students to know that their academic success and student experience will be fully maintained as we readjust our business processes. As we have shown in responding to COVID-19, we will continue to put students first in everything we do.”
“We are pursuing goals and objectives, which maintain Laurentian on a course to achieve its full potential as one of Canada’s outstanding comprehensive, research engaged universities,” continues Dr. Haché. “We will accomplish these goals and objectives as a proudly bilingual and tricultural institution, with strong programs in English and French, and a leader in enabling the success of our Indigenous students.”
Inspired by the example of the University’s researchers, faculty and staff, whose joint efforts to fight COVID-19 demonstrate the power of collaborative solutions during challenging times, Laurentian University is consulting widely with its community and labour partners, seeking their new and bold ideas to address the deficit and academic excellence.
Laurentian University has been a leader among universities in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. The first university in Canada to recognize the severity of the outbreak and suspend in-person activities, Laurentian was also the first to transition fully from in-person to remote learning. The vast majority of its students are on track to complete the term on time, and the University is committed to continuing its program offerings in the Spring and Fall terms.
“Our goal continues to provide our students with an exceptional university experience and to maintain Laurentian as the leading Northern Ontario university,” concludes Dr. Robert Haché. “We remain committed to providing an education that prepares our students for the workforce and to contribute to the Greater Sudbury and the greater North’s economic competitiveness.”
About Laurentian University
Laurentian University is located within the territory of the Robinson-Huron Treaty of 1850, and recognizes its placement on the traditional lands of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, as well as its proximity to Wahnapitae First Nation. Laurentian is committed to strengthening the foundation of knowledge in higher education and research to offer an outstanding university experience in English and French with a comprehensive approach to Indigenous education. Together with its federated partners, Laurentian University prepares leaders who bring innovative and intelligent solutions to local and global issues.