Cap receives $500,000 dollar donation after controversial spring budget cuts
// Claire Vulliamy

Times are tight: despite an increased dollar amount of funding to post-secondary schools from the provincial government, the numbers don’t represent the realities. With inflation and expanding student populations, the costs are continuously rising, and where the provincial government drops off, private donors pick up the slack. What area they donate money to, however, is up to them.

On Sept. 8, it was announced that Capilano University would be receiving a $500,000 gift from husband and wife Sheldon Trainor and Emelda Wong. The funds are to go towards the creation of a Centre for International Experience, in their name, an on-campus centre that will assist both students interested in studying abroad, and international students who have decided to study at Capilano. The centre will provide support for students who are incoming and outgoing, making global connections for Capilano University. “My wife and I hope our gift will inspire Capilano students and visiting students alike to broaden their horizons,” said Trainor in a press release.

The centre will make use of existing space on campus. University President Kris Bulcroft says that the donation will cover full costs of remodeling this space, and then some. The plan is that after development is complete, “there will be money left over to use for student awards,” says Bulcroft.

The generous donation comes four months after Capilano University’s board of governors approved a budget that made significant cuts to Adult Basic Education (ABE), a free program that allows adult students to upgrade their high school level credentials.

While the donation does focus on a specialized aspect of Capilano, Kris Bulcroft says that it does mean prioritization of certain programs over others by the school’s administration. “I don’t think we’re shifting focus at all,” says Bulcroft. “We had more students in ABE than we were receiving funds from the government for. We’re now almost in perfect alignment with what the money we get from the province is designated to do.”

Bulcroft explains, “What we have to do in tight times, which we’re in, is make sure that what we’ve got in all of those programs is quality, so rather than just across the board doing cuts, we’re really trying to be more strategic...In an environment where there’s no new money, this is the real challenge.”

While donations are generally of great benefit to the University, their outcome can sometimes leave a larger imprint than expected. In 2010, the Bosa family donated $6 million to help fund Capilano’s estimated $30 million Nat and Flora Bosa Centre for Film and Animation. This was Capilano’s largest-ever private donation. The provincial government shouldered the rest of the film building’s construction with infrastructure grants.

John Wilson, former president of the Capilano Faculty Association, explained that while the government has covered the construction of the film building, once it is up and running the price tag will be much higher. “It has half a million dollars a year [in] operating cost[s] and none of that cost is funded,” says Wilson. “The institution has to find the money to operate it.”

Furthermore, Wilson explains, “that is a small portion of the costs of keeping the equipment in building current.” He explains that initially, the film building will be fully equipped using the $6 million contribution from the Bosa family, but that within years, the technology will be out of date. This means that “the institution needs to find about a million dollars a year to be able set aside” in order to replace the equipment.

Overall, this means the total cost of running the film building would be $1.5 million dollars a year, estimates Wilson.

“I think that’s unfair to the North Van community, because the film industry is a provincial industry. It attracts money for the benefit of the province.” He says that in this case, it’s only fair that the government fund the operating costs as well.

This is just part of what Wilson calls Capilano’s overall “structural deficit,” wherein the price of maintaining infrastructure presents a hidden compound cost. He explains that Capilano is at the point where the need to repair buildings cannot be put off any longer. “They must maintain buildings or they will just sort of crumble around them.”

Wilson says that it is his understanding that significant cuts will continue in the year to come, though not in the same departments. “The CFA has been told by the administration that they do not expect funding cuts this year to be in the ABE or Developmental Studies areas,” says Wilson.

Unless the provincial government tables a drastically different budget in the years to come, Capilano University's funding problems may unavoidably continue. Provincial law only allows tuition fees to go up by 2% per year, and increases in government funding are minimal. Higher enrollment, inflation, and maintenance continually cause costs to outstrip available funding and as a result the university has to find donations and other private sources to make up for the difference.

Capilano University currently has plans to make many changes and improvements to campus. These include adding more degree programs, building renovations (including a major renovation to the library building), and plans to build a student residence, but these plans can only be followed through with if the necessary funding is available.

// Claire Vulliamy
Arts Editor

Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com