Algonquin College did not have to pay the salaries of faculty who walked the picket line for five weeks this fall, but the strike will still end up costing the college money.
The college estimates it will spend an extra $ 6.7 million because of the strike by full-time professors, part-time instructors, librarians and counsellors.
Algonquin saved about $ 8.2 million in unpaid salaries, but that was more than offset by extra expenses and lost revenue, according to board documents.
Many of the expenses came courtesy of the provincial government, which ordered Ontario’s 24 colleges to offer tuition refunds for students who dropped out and emergency cash for those hit with extra expenses caused by the strike.
Algonquin has given a tuition refund to 2,063 students who felt they couldn’t complete the fall term.
The college estimates it will spend $ 4.5 million on the Student Strike Relief Fund, which offers full-time students up to $ 500 for expenses such as extra rent, childcare costs or cancelled travel plans.
And because Algonquin extended the fall semester into January to make up for lost coursework, it will pay an estimated $ 3.6 million extra in salaries and benefits, according to the documents.
The strike also meant Algonquin took in less revenue than expected. Sales dropped in food services, at the bookstore, in parking lots and for printing services. Fees collected at residences were lost after some students withdrew.
The estimates were in budget documents given to the board of governors earlier this week.
At the same meeting, governors approved spending up to $ 2.9 million to wind up Algonquin’s failed venture running a mens college in Saudi Arabia. The payment was for settlement of an “equipment loan,” according to board documents. College officials were unable to immediately provide any further clarification. Algonquin President Cheryl Jensen declined to be interviewed about the Saudi venture.
Jazan was Algonquin’s first international campus. It opened in 2013 with the promise of helping make Algonquin a “global leader” in exporting technical education and earning millions in revenue that could be pumped back into programs at home.
Algonquin pulled out of Jazan in the summer of 2016 because the campus was losing money. At the time, officials estimated the accumulated operating losses and cost of winding up the college at $ 5.8 million. With the extra expenditure approved this week, the loss has climbed to $ 8.7 million.
The double whammy of strike costs and the final payout for Jazan means that Algonquin will not meet one of the “benchmarks” established to ensure the institution is financially healthy, according to the documents. Algonquin’s “net income to revenue” ratio has dropped below the benchmark, although all the other financial standards are being met or exceeded, said the documents.
The expenditures this fall on the strike and Jazan — totalling $ 9.6 million — are relatively small when compared to Algonquin’s yearly expenditures of around $ 377 million.
Algonquin will face budget “challenges” for the foreseeable future, warn the documents, because of changes in demographics and funding, the need to repair buildings and equipment and rising operating costs, among other things.
Algonquin and other colleges have increasingly relied on attracting international students to bolster their revenue. International students pay more — often double or triple the tuition charged to students from Canada.
Algonquin’s financial position would be worse this year if not for a 39-per-cent increase in the number of international students who enrolled this fall, which helped boost tuition revenues higher than expected.
As of Nov. 1, Algonquin had 16,208 domestic and 2,178 international students enrolled full time in post-secondary and graduate certificate programs.
Of the 2,063 students who dropped out of the fall semester and claimed a tuition refund, 25 per cent “indicated an interest” in coming back to Algonquin in the winter term, according to the college.
Tuition refunds were available for both full and part-time students. Algonquin was unable to provide a breakdown among students requesting rebates, or information about what programs had the most drop outs.
Across Ontario, colleges have accepted applications for tuition refunds from 10.3 per cent of all full-time students, according to the Advanced Education Ministry. That is about 25,700 students. The final number will be higher, because statistics on requests by part-time students have not been compiled yet.
During the bitter strike, tens of thousands of people signed online petitions demanding that students be given their money back if they chose to withdraw from school.
The provincial government ended the strike with back-to-work legislation. Students at Algonquin were back in class on Nov. 21.