By Kevin Alfaro and Daksha Rangan
The Ryerson Students’ Union’s (RSU) alternative budget came out on Tuesday, but their report left more questions than answers.
The report found that on average, Ryerson has been running a structural surplus of $14 million over the past five years. It says that based on that number, the school could give each student a rebate of over $400.
But Ryerson says the savings that the RSU’s budget found were “wrongly” called a surplus.
“The university is required to save funds every year in order to be able build its future,” reads a statement from Ryerson.
Some of these savings are used to purchase land for future buildings, like the recently opened Student Learning Centre (SLC). The SLC land cost Ryerson $30 million – the money was set aside in advance.
Jesse Root, the RSU’s vice-president education says the access to budget documents was granted after the tent-city protest in November 2014. “[W]e had requested, as part of [tent city] access to budget documents…we were able to, through that, negotiate with the administration to give us that documentation.”
Root adds that the figures in the alternative budget report come from these negotiations.
“We had meetings and were given documents from Janice Winton, the vice-provost finance and administration and CFO of the university,” Root says. Paul Stenton, Ryerson’s vice-provost university planning also contributed information to the document.
When asked about the accuracy of the figures, Root declined to comment, suggesting reporters refer all fiscal questions to economist Sean Geobey, one of the document’s two drafters. Neither Geobey or economist Anthony Piscitelli were available for comment at the time of publication.
Root also mentioned that in previous years the university had an issue with underestimation of enrolment figures.
“So the revenue statements here may not be entirely accurate because they don’t take into consideration the actual enrolment numbers, they take in the reported enrolment numbers,” Root says.
He also notes that the university’s public and audited financial statements generally feature “no actual, actual numbers.” He adds “[the figures] are all proposed budget numbers.”
The RSU’s long-term goal has been to freeze tuition fees and the report serves to support the feasibility of that goal. The organization will be holding a town hall on March 12 to hear feedback from students on their budget.
Part of the alternative budget counselled that the presidents of the RSU and CESAR should be non-voting members of the Board of Governors “to further promote transparent governance.”
None of the RSU’s current executive team members were elected to represent the student body on Ryerson’s upcoming Board of Governors.
Note: At the time of publication, this article originally referenced Ryerson’s actual revenue to be $34.9 million, with a surplus of $20.6 million after expenses. The Ryersonian has clarified these figures and updated the story accordingly.