St. F.X. President Kent MacDonald can scratch off one of the items on his holiday wish list.
Friday morning (Dec. 14), the provincial government announced a $3.95-million increase in annual operational funding for the university in Antigonish.
“It’s an early Christmas gift,” he told the Casket, a couple hours after Nova Scotia Labour and Advanced Education Minister Labi Kousoulis unwrapped the financial present, of sorts.
The push for a funding increase did not come overnight.
“I have been telling people it has been something we have been working on for more than two years; actually, it has been since I came [to St. F.X.] four years ago that we have been making the case,” MacDonald said.
He noted there has been a “full-out effort” by him and many other senior officials at the university for the past 18 months.
“It puts us back on stable footing,” MacDonald said, noting the financial pressures on universities, including St. F.X., since a 10 per cent cut in provincial funding seven or eight years ago.
With this boost in operating funding, which was $32,332,000 million before the announcement, he added university officials will no longer have to present deficit budgets to the St. F.X. board of governors.
“This announcement is tremendous news for St. F.X.,” board chair Mike Boyd said in a university press release.
He thanked provincial officials for “their vision, leadership and commitment to post-secondary education within the province.”
MacDonald echoed that sentiment, while noting the effort of Antigonish MLA and provincial health minister Randy Delorey in bringing this announcement to fruition.
“He continued to plug away and I don’t think we would be here without him,” MacDonald said of Delorey.
The monies will be added directly to the university’s base operating grant for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
“St. Francis Xavier and the University of King’s College have been fixtures in our communities for more than a century, and we want their economic, social and cultural contributions to continue for years to come,” Kousoulis said in a department press release.
“We’ll continue to work closely with St. F.X., King’s and all our universities as we move forward.”
The Halifax-based university will receive a $2.2-million increase.
The provincial minister added the operational funding increase “will help stabilize their financial positions,” heading into the 2019-2024 memorandum of understanding between government and the universities.
He also touched on how a financially stable St. F.X. benefits northeastern Nova Scotia, including Antigonish town and county.
“We are so pleased with this decision of the provincial government,” MacDonald said of the reaction after speaking with Mayor Laurie Boucher and Warden Owen McCarron.
“It signals to us that this provincial government understands and appreciates that by investing in St. F.X., the government is investing in an economic, social and cultural driver for the town and county of Antigonish, the northeastern region of Nova Scotia and the province.”
St. F.X. Students’ Union President Rebecca Mesay said her organization is “excited” about the announcement.
“I’m very pleased to see funding that will go to areas that directly support students,” she added.
In its reaction to the good news, St. F.X. officials also referenced a 2017 report that outlined the university’s economic impact ($486 million) on the province in 2016-17, which concluded, for every dollar invested in St. F.X., $15 in return is generated in Nova Scotia.