Michael Benarroch, provost and vice-president, academic, at town hall Feb. 11. (Kiki Cekota/ Ryersonian)

Student life on campus will be harmed by the budget cuts the provincial government is forcing on universities, said a senior Ryerson executive at a town hall meeting Monday.

“There’s no doubt that there’s going to be less money flowing to student groups. I think it’s going to harm the student life on campus,” said provost and vice-president academic Michael Benarroch in an interview with the Ryersonian. “The things that we’re doing – the newspapers, the other student groups that get people together – are a really important part of university.”

He said that there will be “lots of uncertainty” regarding the future for student groups going into the 2019-20 academic year. He was speaking at the first out of three town hall meetings about the 2019-20 Ryerson budget.

In the wake of Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government reducing Ontario university tuition by 10 per cent, Ryerson will see a net revenue reduction of about $29 million. Students will also be given the option to opt out of paying ancillary fees, such as those that go to student groups.

President Mohamed Lachemi also spoke at the town hall, which was held in VIC 205. The meeting was attended mostly by Ryerson faculty members. The meetings were scheduled to get feedback from stakeholders about cuts that will be made to the budget.

“There is a consensus in the province that the new fiscal realities are challenging for everyone,” Lachemi said at the start of the event. “This is why it’s important for the entire community at Ryerson to get together and talk about those choices for the budget.”

Lachemi outlined Ryerson’s main priorities that are being kept in mind when the cuts are made, including $26 million in scholarship money for students, which the school says will not be reduced.

Out of Ryerson’s budget of $606 million, about $154 million is “non-cuttable” and $453 million is available for reduction.

Part of the reason scholarships will not be reduced is due to the changes being made to OSAP by the Progressive Conservative government, Benarroch said.

“Students are going to get less money through OSAP, some students are going to be cut off completely. I think this will be a more challenging time for students and their finances,” he said. “That’s why we’ve committed to keep our scholarship money.”

Part of the university’s plan to generate revenue is to increase the number of international students at Ryerson in the upcoming academic year by at least 500, since the provincial government only has jurisdiction over tuition fees for domestic students.

“We’re being much more aggressive in our pursuit of international students,” Benarroch said. “We’ve never really had to do this at Ryerson because we’ve had such high demand from domestic students.”

Glenn Craney, Ryerson’s deputy provost and vice-provost university planning also spoke at the town hall, outlining how the budget process works and what Ryerson’s budget was for the 2018-19 academic year.

The remaining two town halls will take place Feb. 13 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. in ARC 108 and Feb. 25 from 12:30 to 1:30 in DSQ 13.

The budget planning committee is requesting community members submit any specific ideas they may have about where money can be saved in the budget via their budget website.

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