Thompson Rivers University preparing for drop in international enrolment, plans for layoffs - InfoNews

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Thompson Rivers University preparing for drop in international enrolment, plans for layoffs

May 18, 2020 - 6:00 PM

Thompson Rivers University is poised to suffer some financial hardship with COVID-19 halting international travel and large gatherings.

Brett Fairbairn, the president of the university, sent a letter out to staff and faculty about potential layoffs and other financial changes that have come due to a new provisional budget.

In the notice, which was sent to, it states there has been a halt on spending, capital projects have been paused, new hires have been put on hold and the majority of corporate credit cards have been rescinded.

Matt Milovick, the vice president of administration and finance at the university, told the board that it was difficult to determine the extent of the financial impacts of COVID-19 until the fall.

“We reduced our estimates for international students by 30 percent,” Milovick says. “That number could be right, it could be off.”

He says the decline in revenue from international students' tuition could be a major loss, as that source was expected to bring in $66.3 million for the upcoming school year. That would have accounted for 26 per cent of the school’s revenue.

Milovick says there could also be a decline in domestic tuition, which was expected to bring in $41 million. The impact of international enrolment would be more significant, as it accounts for ten per cent more of the school’s revenue than domestic, and it will be harder for students to get visas and travel.

Some international students have remained in Kamloops during the pandemic and many have been laid off from their jobs, which could be the reason the university’s international student summer enrolments are slightly up, according to Milovick. That fact is a slight silver lining in contrast to the nearly $8 million shortfalls this summer is bringing for the university.

“We've lost a lot of money this summer from our ancillary operations, we would do things like conferences, hotel, sporting events, that kind of stuff. All that revenue is lost so we know there's going to be an impact,” Milovick says. “Everything's been pretty tight… we’re trying to preserve cash everywhere we can.”

Milovick doesn’t yet know the number of faculty and staff who may be laid off or the number of hires that will be put on hold but says it will be clearer in the coming months.

“There were roughly $6 million in new hires that were expected across the organization, so most of that has been frozen. There’s a few places where we’ve made hires, we’ve added folks to the communications area obviously, because the need is there,” Milovick says. “We’re trying to align our plan as to what we think might happen in the fall. If there are layoff notices given in the next little while, there’s basically a four-month notice period… while we might serve a layoff notice, it might be that in the fall we can pull some of those back.”

Despite what happens with the layoffs and situation in the fall, Milovick says the faculty and staff have been understanding of the situation and the students will remain the priority.

“Our primary concern is to ensure we’re not negatively impacting the students. You can make a loose correlation that if there are fewer students, generally there would be fewer staff, so we’re hoping to maintain that,” Milovick says. “I couldn’t be happier with the discussions and the relationships that we have, and hopefully we're going to get to that place to protect the university in the short term and improve the university in the long term.”

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