Thompson Rivers University now expects to finish the fiscal year back in the black after long projecting a deficit from the financial ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The university is currently trending towards a $1.7 million surplus to close out the 2020-2021 budget as opposed to the previously projected $3 million deficit.
It’s the latest estimate after a year of uncertainty in budget planning due to the impacts of COVID-19 — most notably the restrictions to international travel.
In the spring, TRU anticipated a $9 million budget surplus would swing to a $9 million deficit due predominantly to an estimated 30 per cent drop in international students and other ancillary revenue losses.
Come the fall, that projection changed to a $3 million deficit as international enrolment was down just 13 per cent from the previous year.
After fine-tuning the numbers of the second quarter report the university found itself projecting a surplus — albeit one that is about $6.8 million lower than the pre-pandemic one and $18.6 million lower than the prior year-end results.
TRU vice president of finance and administration Matt Milovick told KTW in December the nearly $2 million surplus projection for 2020-21 is due to the unexpected strength in enrolment — domestic numbers being about the same as last fall and more new international students than expected starting programs remotely from their home countries.
The university, however, is still forecasting at least another year of uncertainty and a deficit budget next year.
Domestic enrolment is expected to remain flat, but its still unclear what impact the pandemic will have going forward with respect to international students.
International enrolment for winter 2021 is a projected to be down seven to 10 per cent from last winter, but that will be in flux until the course add/drop date of Jan. 22.
Courses this winter semester, as in the fall, are predominantly online, but TRU hopes to offer more in-class instruction come the fall 2021 semester.
The TRU board of governors approved the 2020-2021 budget in December.
It would have been approved last in March, but due to the pandemic, the university scrapped its original budget and approved a provisional one that was approved last month once there was more certainty in the numbers for the fiscal year.
The university cut 15 CUPE employees and offered up its first-ever early-retirement program with about 75 people taking that option in the fall.
The university also deferred a number of capital projects to preserve cash and has left many positions vacant.
The 2021-2022 budget is expected to be approved under the normal timeframe come March.