Don Hlus, the former director of guitar at the KPU school of music, said there appeared to be more than enough in the surplus to allow music admissions to continue. (File photo)

KPU reports $22-million surplus

Announcement comes after cuts to Langley-based music program

Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) reported a $22 million surplus, just months after it cancelled admissions to its Langley-based music program and cancelled a number of other programs, sparking student protests.

A report to the March 22 KPU board of governors meeting by Jon Harding , the university vice-president in charge of finance and administration, said the surplus was the result of a “significant increase in international enrolment.”

At the same meeting, Harding issued a warning about “developing a dependency on revenue streams which are uncertain and inherently volatile. “

In response to a Langley Times Advance query, Harding explained that KPU is “required by law to achieve a balanced budget, which means it has to deliver a surplus budget.”

A deficit, Harding stated, is not allowed.

“The larger-than-expected surplus in fiscal 2019 was primarily a result of a higher than forecasted growth in international enrolment, and underspending on salary and benefits because of higher than normal employee vacancies,” Harding continued.

“KPU did not expect these trends to continue in the 2019-20 financial year and it had to budget accordingly.”

READ MORE: Sour notes sounded: Cause of KPU music admission freeze disputed

Don Hlus, the former director of guitar at the KPU school of music, said there appeared to be more than enough in the surplus to allow music admissions to continue, something he estimated would have cost around $1 million.

“I don’t think this is about money,” Hlus said.

“I think for whatever reason, they don’t want these programs.”

Hlus said after his workload was recently reduced, and with it, his salary, he opted to take a layoff instead on Friday (August 9th).

He said at least three other music instructors are in the same situation and the department is being pressured to “redesign” the program to trim costs.

“A public institution should be careful with public dollars,” Hlus observed.

“I get that. [But] what they’re doing is wrong.”

After KPU suspended new admissions to the music program earlier this year, Dr. Sal Ferreras, KPU provost and vice president, said the proposed cuts “reflect the unsustainability of the music department’s delivery model in its current format.”

Ferreras said the university faculty of arts was planning a “thorough review of the music degree and diploma programs to seek a more sustainable model for this programming.”

“In the meantime, it was prudent to cancel intakes to allow that review to be conducted,” the statement added.

READ MORE: Kwantlen music students looking elsewhere because of budget tightening, student leader says

As a result, students have begun applying to other music schools according to the head of the Kwantlen Music Students Association, Emma Dotto.

She expected the number of students will drop from the current 80 to around 50 or 60, the combined result of the freeze on new admissions, graduations and students transferring to other music schools.

When the admissions freeze was first announced, music students staged several protests with the support of their instructors, including a weekend outdoor concert in Langley City.

KPU President and Vice Chancellor Dr. Alan Davis said a review showed university revenues were going to “plateau” while expenses continued to rise.

“The approval of this balanced budget was critically important for KPU’s long-term success because it represents an integrated approach to ensuring the university is financially sustainable while continuing to serve its students and its communities,” Davis said.

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