First Nations University to offer buyouts

FNU may be broke, but that building is still Tony Stark-level cool. Photo - Brett Neilsen

FNU may be broke, but that building is still Tony Stark-level cool. Photo – Brett Neilsen

administration hoping to avoid layoffs

First Nations University of Canada will be offering retirement incentive packages to faculty and staff in the coming months, in the hopes that the resulting savings in salaries will help to balance their deficit budget.

Lynn Wells, FNU Vice-President Academic, stated that the institution is hoping that if enough employees accept the buyout packages, layoffs can be avoided.

“In order to manage our resources prudently,” Wells told the Carillon, “we will be offering voluntary retirement incentive packages to faculty and staff in the next few months.”

“We haven’t made any offers yet,” Wells said, “and in fact, we had a consultation this morning with faculty and staff here in Regina.”

“We want to make sure we’re managing resources in a good way… We’re certainly hoping not to have layoffs.”

According to Wells, the buyout program offered by FNU will be “similar to what [the] U of R offered a year ago,” and similar to other programs being conducted at post-secondary institutions nationwide.

“We are hopeful that, through this voluntary program, we will be able to balance our budget and continue on a path to growth and innovation.”

There is still no information available regarding how many jobs will need to be vacated in order to avoid layoffs.

“We don’t really have a number,” said Wells.

When asked whether the reduction in faculty and staff numbers will have a negative impact on the student experience, Wells said, “We are going to work very hard as a team… We will make sure that student services maintain at an extremely high level, as it has always been at this institution… We all do a little bit more.”

This is not the first time FNU has been plagued by financial difficulties. In August, nine full-time jobs were cut from the University in an effort to make up an $800,000 budget deficit caused by low enrollment numbers. The University had previously cut twenty-nine jobs as part of their restructuring in 2010, and chose not to fill a further seventeen vacant positions.

According to financial statements from the FNU website, revenue for the institution decreased by more than $1.5 million between 2014 and 2015. According to Wells, “The deficit really is a result of funding constraints in the system. Post-secondary education across the country is facing status-quo funding.” Wells also noted that FNU was a special case in that the majority of their funding comes from the federal government rather than the provincial government.

While FNU enrollment continues to rise, the rate of student growth is slowing. First Nations University’s enrollment grew by just five per cent last year (which translates to approximately 150 new students), compared to ten per cent growth in 2013-14, and fifteen per cent in 2012-13.

In a brief official statement, University of Regina administration echoed Wells’ confidence that the buyout packages would help avoid layoffs.

“The University [of Regina] has undertaken similar programs like this in the past to help manage fiscal pressures while minimizing the impact on faculty and staff. These types of programs can prove very beneficial in helping identify savings that can be used to ensure layoffs are a last resort in dealing with budget pressures.”

First Nations University has operated as an independently-administered federated college of the University of Regina since 1976. Members of the FNU Board of Governors are appointed by the Education and Training Commission of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN). Over 30,000 students have taken FNU courses as part of their education.

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