University

Nova Scotia’s auditor general says more controls are needed for government funding to universities

Michael Pickup’s report says government and universities also need to consider long-term funding sustainability

 

Auditor General, Michael Pickup discusses audit report on university funding
Auditor general, Michael Pickup discusses audit report on university funding   Nicole Gnazdowsky

Auditor general Michael Pickup says the Department of Labour and Advanced Education has no processes in place to monitor a university’s financial performance.

Pickup said that without processes, there is no overall path for universities to achieve long-term financial sustainability.

He is concerned funding to universities is currently being given out based on out-of-date 2011 enrolment data.

In 2014-2015, universities in Nova Scotia received $317 million in operating grants.

“Despite this, most funding to universities is provided with no accountability back to the province for how it was spent,” said Pickup.

He says another $4 million in emergency funding was also given to universities.

The government gives emergency funding based on the requests of universities if they need it. However, the institution is not held accountable to explain why they need it or how it is spent, nor are they required to raise money by way of selling investments or using funds set aside for other purposes before emergency funding is granted.

Pictou East Conservative MLA Tim Houston says the department is failing to consider the long-term repercussions of this funding model.

“Nobody is really looking to see if this money is being spent effectively and I think that until you have people who start to ask those questions about the effective use of taxpayer dollars in the university system that you are going to continue to have issues around funding,” he said.

Students’ demands

Michaela Sam, chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students, says students are also calling for more accountability in the spending of public funds.

“With a lack of accountability and a lack of public funding, we are seeing tuition increases as high as 37 per cent at our institutions as a result of the Liberal government’s tuition fee reset. That’s a reality that Nova Scotians and Nova Scotia cannot afford,” she said.

Sam says without changes, graduates will continue to leave the province after graduating because they will have racked up too much debt.

The Department of Labour and Advanced Education has agreed to implement all of Pickup’s recommendations regarding accountability, long-term sustainability, emergency funding and grant allocations.