By Ryan Gainford
According to the 2013 – 2014 annual report Algonquin College is, with excess of revenue over expenses totalling $7.16 million in the year of operations ending Mar. 31, 2014. However, as Algonquin is a public institution subject to provincial legislation, more than just profitability must be taken into consideration when looking at the college’s annual report.
“In general, colleges work under provincial legislation which dictates we cannot have a deficit nor surplus without a plan to eliminate it,” said Jim McIntosh, chair of the board of governors. “I do not believe there is a college in Canada which has surplus funds or profits as such, but every college does look at a wide range of alternative business ideas to generate needed funds which are used to finance deferred maintenance as well as provide new and expanded learning facilities.”
That means that unlike the way a business is run where there are shareholders, a public institution like Algonquin has stakeholders, essentially parties or persons with an interest or concern in the college itself, or participants seen as having an interest in the college’s success.
In this case, the stakeholders are students, Ontario businesses and employers, faculty, and the Ontario government.
“The college itself has no mandate to make a profit,” said Fred Blackstein, vice-chair of the board of governors. “The bulk of our funds are kept in liquid reserves and secure investments like GICs, basically zero risk investments. Our only goal is to provide post-secondary education to students who aspire to trades and technology, and do that in a fiscally responsible way. We use the same accounting principles as a business, but otherwise are completely different.”
Ontario’s college system is due to celebrate it’s 50th year in 2017.
“Grants and tuition make up the majority of revenue,” Blackstein said.
In general, colleges work under provincial legislation which dictates we cannot have a deficit nor surplus without a plan to eliminate it.
The student’s cost of attending a post-secondary institution in Ontario is relatively low compared to places where educational institutions are privatized because the Provincial government helps subsidize the cost of education through grants. It gives a grant to every student in every program, which along with tuition, helps cover the cost of education.
As some programs are more expensive than others and some careers in higher demand, the amount given per grant is different for each program. However, along with these grants and tuition, registered charitable foundations like the Algonquin College Foundation are becoming ever more important to Algonquin’s funding mix.
The foundation, which operates as a wholly separate entity from the college itself, is a charitable organization which raises money through things such as donations from companies and individuals.
The money they raise helps pay for scholarships, new equipment, and new buildings, for example.
“Without the foundation it would be very difficult to get these things,” Blackstein said. “Grants and tuition no longer cover what they used to.”
And while the financial picture at Algonquin is rosey, Ontario’s college system is among the lowest funded college systems in the country when it comes to the grants given by the Provincial government.
When asked which contributing factor he felt was the most important to ensure net operations remained positive, Blackstein said, “We’re hoping the Provincial government realizes funding needs to be increased.”