SPECIAL REPORT

THE RISING CRISIS

UNIVERSITIES IN CANADA ARE ENLISTING PROFESSIONALS TO HELP THEM FIGHT AGAINST UNDERFUNDING

D’ARCY JENISH September 18 1989
SPECIAL REPORT

THE RISING CRISIS

UNIVERSITIES IN CANADA ARE ENLISTING PROFESSIONALS TO HELP THEM FIGHT AGAINST UNDERFUNDING

D’ARCY JENISH September 18 1989

THE RISING CRISIS

SPECIAL REPORT

UNIVERSITIES IN CANADA ARE ENLISTING PROFESSIONALS TO HELP THEM FIGHT AGAINST UNDERFUNDING

After the cozy atmosphere at his Toronto high school, Mark Chung-Yan found first-year university an overwhelming experience. The 21-year-old native of Trinidad, now a second-year geography student at the University of Western Ontario in London, had been accustomed to high-school classes of 30 to 40 students. At Western, most of his classes had close to 500 students, dozens of whom were forced to sit in the aisles, and professors delivered lectures with the aid of hand-held, cordless microphones. Over the summer, Chung-Yan discovered another integral part of university life in Canada: fund-raising. He worked full time soliciting donations for the university by telephone. For many of Canada’s 514,000 full-time university students, who resume their studies at 68 degree-granting institutions this month, overcrowded classrooms, outdated equipment and deteriorating buildings are a fact of life.

The net effect, according to many students, is a decline in the quality of education. Lynda Richardson, a third-year French major at the University of Manitoba, said that some of her professors do not ask for written assignments or special projects because they do not have time to mark them. Jeff Richmond, a fourth-year English major at the University of Calgary, added that professors may set office hours aside for consultations with students, but the lineups are long, and the students get only a few minutes each. And Western’s Chung-Yan said that he found it very difficult to concentrate in large classes and he found himself easily distracted. “The whole atmosphere is not conducive to learning,” he added.

Grants: For university administrators, the complaints of their students are a reflection of one of the most serious problems confronting higher education in Canada: underfunding. As a result, professionally designed and managed fund-raising campaigns have become a key to alleviating some of their financial problems. According to a survey conducted earlier this year by the Ottawa-based Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, 56 institutions were in the process of raising an unprecedented $1.2 billion, including $720 million from private sources. The balance, say university officials, will have to be provided by governments. Said Donald Keleher, president of the Canadian Association of Educational Development Officers, an organization that promotes university fund-raising: “Every university in Canada is involved. It is a quantum leap from five years ago.”

According to figures released last week by Statistics Canada, the total cost of running Canadian universities this year will hit $8.9 billion.

But most university officials say that they still require larger federal-provincial operating grants, or increased tuition fees, to cover such operating costs as salaries, teaching equipment, heat and electricity. Otherwise, they claim, the quality of postsecondary education will deteriorate and the Canadian economy will become less competitive. Said George Connell, president of the University of Toronto, Canada’s largest postsecondary institute: “Everybody is telling us our future depends upon our being innovative, knowledgeable, creative people. At the same time, our investment in higher education is falling.”

Underfunding has produced a broad range of problems for universities across the country. A task force at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., concluded last year that the institution’s 86 buildings required “massive, immediate corrective maintenance” that would cost an estimated $25 million. The Edmonton-based University of Alberta now charges students annual fees of $120 for the use of computers

and libraries, and the student association is challenging the legality of the fees. Halifax’s Dalhousie University, one of Atlantic Canada’s largest postsecondary institutes, has reduced its faculty by 50 professors through attrition over the past three years and is considering selling off land to reduce its $33.5-million debt. Said Thomas Digby, a vice-president of the Dalhousie student union: “Buildings are literally crumbling. Labs are doing more experiments with less equipment. The whole idea of university life is being damaged.”

Costs: The cause of the funding squeeze is straightforward, according to most academics and educators. Growth in government grants, which cover about 80 per cent of the operating costs of most universities, simply have not kept pace with rising costs. In the federal fiscal year ended last April, Ottawa contributed $6.6 billion tc vard postsecondary education, compared with $2.6 billion 10 years earlier. Over the same period, operating grants per student rose to $6,652 from $4,442.

Despite those funding increases, university administrators across Canada say that their institutions are severely underfinanced. Connell said that u of T’s operating budget should be about 15 per cent above the current $500 million. Similarly, Bryan Mason, Dalhousie’s vice-president of finance and administration, said that his university needs at least a 10-percent increase in its $ 105-million annual operating budget.

Donors: But university administrators say that, since 1982, successive federal governments have moved to limit increases in funding postsecondary education because of Ottawa’s yearly deficits and the growing national debt. As a result, they have been forced to adopt more innovative, entrepreneurial approaches to financial problems. Ross McGregor, president of Toronto-based Ketchum Canada Inc., a fund-raising consulting firm, said that his company has worked on 18 university campaigns across Canada over the past five years. McGregor added that Canadian universities are now attempting to raise larger sums of money than ever before and that they are becoming far more sophisticated (page 59).

Before launching a fund-raising campaign, many universities hire a consulting firm to conduct a feasibility study. McGregor said that consultants can accurately determine realistic goals and then compile lists of potential donors, including alumni, parents of current students, faculty, charitable foundations and corporations. In some cases, outside consultants run the campaign, he said, although many universities now have their own development departments responsible for fund-raising on a permanent basis. Indeed, Keleher, development director at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, said that there is such a shortage of professional fund raisers across the country that each month a couple of potential employers contact him. He added, “It is one of the hottest fields in Canada.”

A professionally designed campaign and sophisticated appeals to potential donors have become necessary because fund-raising is now an extremely competitive business. Sean Moore, president of Ottawa-based Catalyst International, which advises large corporations on philanthropy, said that some of his clients receive up to 5,000 requests annually for donations from arts groups, hospitals, social service agencies and universities.

Goal: Despite the intense competition for money, university fund-raising targets have been rising rapidly. McGregor said that the trend is partly driven by need and partly by the extraordinary success of a few campaigns in the mid-1980s. Montreal’s McGill University set out in 1983 to raise $61 million but ended up with close to $77 million, and between 1984 and 1986, Quebec City’s Laval University raised $43 million, well above its initial goal of $25 million. Currently, both the University of British Columbia and U of T are in the midst of campaigns that they describe as the largest ever undertaken in Canada. UBC’s objective is $132 million, which includes $66 million from individuals and corporations, and an equivalent

amount from the provincial government. Uof T is attempting to raise $100 million from private-sector donors alone.

Exclusive: In order to meet their campaign objectives, universities have adopted a wide variety of techniques. Most institutions allow targeted gifts in which the donor specifies how the money is used. During one recent campaign, the University of Calgary allowed companies or individuals to name classrooms and labs if they made a donation of $250,000 or more. The University of Manitoba, which launched its $42-million Drive For Excellence campaign in early 1987, turned to its students, staff and alumni for support. Nine student associations from different faculties voted in favor of surcharges on top of tuition fees for three years. James Daly, director of the university’s department of private funding, said that engineering students will pay $50 a year while

commerce students have agreed to -

contribute $90 annually.

Many of U of T’s techniques are based on the fact that 10 per cent of the donors contribute 90 per cent of the funds. As a result, fund raisers can afford to pay considerable attention to a relatively small number of potential sources. Gordon Cressy, Uof T’s vicepresident of development, said that obtaining large donations from wealthy individuals can involve lunches at exclusive private clubs with university president Connell, the deans of some faculties or prominent corporate executives who once attended U of T. The process can take a year and also requires thorough research of the potential donor’s background and interests.

Occasionally, patience and diligence pay off especially handsomely. Cressy said that one woman who had attended the university during the late 1930s

and early 1940s had agreed to donate $100,000. But then, she received a personal visit from veteran CBC entertainers Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster. They had appeared in a campus comedy show with the woman when they were all students, and the university was planning to renovate the theatre where the comedy show had taken place. Because of her personal connections with the renovation project, the woman agreed to increase her donation to $1 million. Said Cressy: “What you’re trying to do is find the hottest button that’s going to make a donor give.”

Squeeze: But even the most successful fundraising campaigns will only solve part of the financial problems facing Canadian universities, according to educators and administrators. Money raised through private sources usually goes toward upgrading or replacing buildings, or establishing scholarships for stu-

dents and endowment funds to pay for visiting or guest professors. And fundraising will not replace the government grants and tuition fees, which together cover more than 90 per cent of the annual operating budgets of most universities. Said Douglas Wright, president of the University of Waterloo, an Ontario institution known for its engineering and science programs: “There obviously has to be more money. I believe there should be both increased government support and increased tuition.”

The effects of the financial squeeze are felt most acutely by undergraduates who are trying to earn bachelor of arts or science degrees. Declared Wright: “Class sizes and teaching loads have become outrageous.” At the University of Waterloo, there are now 20 students per teacher, compared with just 12 in the early 1960s.

Paul Mendes, a student representative on the board of governors at Burnaby’s Simon Fraser University, said that students frequently sit on window ledges in crowded seminar rooms. Brian Tinker, a vicepresident of the University of Calgary, added that large classes force professors to reduce or eliminate written assignments in favor of multiple-choice exams, which are easier to grade. Said Tinker: “This has an impact on writing and basic communication skills. This is very serious.”

Besides crowded classrooms, a common problem is outdated scientific equipment. Charles Bigelow, professor of chemistry at the University of Manitoba, said that his undergraduates are working with 30to 40-year-old microscopes. The science faculty cannot afford new ones, which cost about $1,000 apiece, said Bigelow. The University of Guelph, an Ontario school noted for its agriculture and veterinary programs, has responded to the problem by using profits from its food services operations and bookstore to buy equipment. University president Brian Segal said that it will take at least five years to replace outdated equipment.

Compete: University libraries, which are essential for students at any level and in any discipline, have also deteriorated because funding increases have not kept pace with rising prices for books and scientific journals. Ellen Hoffmann, director of libraries at Toronto’s York University, said that a recent survey of purchasing by the top 100 research libraries in North America showed that the median price increase of books and journals that they acquired between 1986 and 1988 was 32 per cent. Hoffmann said that York purchased 50,000 new volumes during the 1987-1988 academic year, compared with 66,000 a decade earlier. During that 10-year period, York reduced its journal sub-

scriptions to 10,500 fromll,755, she said.

At the same time, university department heads say that underfunding has weakened their staffs because they cannot compete with the salaries available elsewhere. Peter King, head of the University of Manitoba’s computer science department, said that over the past two years he has lost four of 32 faculty members, largely because of salary differences and research facilities. One professor went to a high school, another went to an American university and two took private-sector jobs.

Reject: Besides teaching, the second basic function of a university is research. But many academics say that funding for research is not keeping pace with the cost of equipment or the number of applicants applying for grants. Arthur May, president of the Ottawa-based Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, said that the council will distribute $422 million in grants during the year beginning next April 1. Five years ago, the council awarded $310 million in grants. But May noted that the council has received 800 applications in each of the past two years from new researchers and had to reject nearly half of them. As well, grants are paying for less research because of rising costs.

Said May: “Scientific inflation is probably double consumer inflation. Therefore, we’re losing ground.”

The intense competition for research grants is beginning to have a devastating effect on many university faculties. Glen Caldwell, Western’s vice-president of research, pointed out that they are being split into two groups. Those who receive funding are beginning to specialize in research, while those who do not receive funding are concentrating exclusively on teaching. There is not enough grant money to launch the research careers of many young scientists, while competent, mature academics are having their funding cut off in midcareer. Said Caldwell: “They become bitter, disgruntled and frustrated, and cease to be effective as researchers or teachers.”

Fees: The solutions to the crisis are simple and straightforward, according to most university administrators. Governments can increase operating grants or give the universities greater flexibility to increase their tuition fees. But they point out that three federal budgets since 1983 have contained measures that limited increases in funding for postsecondary education. The most recent change in the federal funding formula was contained in Michael Wilson’s April, 1989, budget. Claude Lajeunesse, executive director of the Ottawabased Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, said that the latest budget will cut

$700 million from Ottawa’s obligations over the next four years.

Tuition fees began increasing sharply in most provinces in the middle to late 1970s, except for Quebec, which has kept its fees frozen since 1968. Students in Atlantic Canada

pay the highest fees in the country—up to $1,950 per year for an undergraduate arts program. A comparable program in Quebec costs a student a maximum of $570 annually. In Ontario and the four western provinces, under-

graduates are paying tuition fees ranging from $1,000 to $1,930 per year. However, Canadian fees remain cheap when compared with those charged at private American universities. Yale University charges undergraduate arts stu-

dents $12,744 a year, Harvard charges $16,068 and Brown charges $17,042. Despite the fee increases in Canada, tuition still accounts for only 15 per cent to 20 per cent of total operating revenues at universities throughout the country.

As a result, individual university administrators in several provinces say that fees should be even higher. But one of the most organized campaigns for increased fees has occurred in Ontario. In March, 1989, the board of governors at Queen’s approved a proposal to increase tuition fees by $125 annually for five years. By the fall of 1993, first-year arts and science students would be paying $2,036 annually. Under the proposal, provincial operating grants would increase by $3 for every $1 increase in tuition. Over the first five years, the proposal would cost the provincial government an extra $525 million. Kenneth Snowdon, director of resources planning at Queen’s, said that the proposal has g been approved by the Council of On§ tario Universities, which includes the presidents of the province’s 15 universities.

But any further attempts to in; crease tuition fees would likely meet with stiff resistance from student organizations. Both the Canadian Federation of Students and the Ontario Federation of Students are officially opposed to any tuition fees. The national student group’s chairman, Jane Arnold, a University of New Brunswick psychology and political science graduate, said that postsecondary education should be considered a right, not a privilege. She added that governments should fund postsecondary education out of tax revenues. Said Arnold: “Tuition fees and user fees are financial barriers that affect the whole question of accessibility to higher education.”

Crisis: Clearly, for the federal and provincial politicians who have to ensure the future of Canada’s universities, there are no easy solutions to the underfunding crisis. Politicians say that raising tuition fees any further would only undermine their own long-established policies of making university education accessible to as many students as possible. Increasing operating grants may be difficult, if not impossible, at a time when most governments « are attempting to control their spendz ing. But nearly all educators and adminï istrators maintain that, without more 5 funding, the quality of university education in Canada will decline, perhaps irreversibly. The net effect, they say, will be a generation of poorly trained graduates and a less efficient economy, at a time of increasingly tough global competition.

D’ARCY JENISH