Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thanks to the members of the committee for inviting me to take part in the deliberations of the Standing Committee on Official Languages.
The Université de Moncton has three campuses in high-density Acadian regions in New Brunswick, in Edmunston, Shippagan and Moncton.
Our mandate is to facilitate access to post-secondary education for Acadians. Our mission as a non-specialized university is to offer a range of training programs that meet the needs of professionals in all francophone minority communities. The good news is that 87% of our graduates work in New Brunswick, which is a clear indication that the ability to study in one's language in one's own community plays an important role in the vitality of francophone minority communities.
With respect to the financial situation of the Université de Moncton, 75% of our funding comes from the Government of New Brunswick, 23% from tuition fees, which are determined by enrolment, and 2% from the profits our services generate.
It is important to note that New Brunswick government funding has risen on average by 0.7% over the past 10 years, as a result of which we have had to raise tuition fees by 24% over the past 3 years in order to balance our budget. This increase may have an impact on access to post-secondary education given the socioeconomic situation and educational level of Acadians and francophones in New Brunswick.
The student body still includes first-generation students. Of their total number, 70% have graduated from New Brunswick secondary schools, 7% are students from elsewhere in Canada and 23% are foreign francophone students.
We receive between 3,000 and 4,000 applications from foreign students every year. We accept approximately 1,500 of those applications but enrol barely 200 in September. That's mainly attributable to the tuition fees charged for international francophone students, which are nearly double those of Canadian students.
We need help because, like any business, we have to absorb the annual rise in operating costs due to pay increases and inflation, which amount to $2 million or $3 million, all in a context of declining demographics. We know New Brunswick's population is aging.
To balance our budget, our administration, like previous administrations, has had to make budget cuts of 2% to 3% across the board over the past 10 years. As a result, our budget has declined by more than $25 million during that period. This isn't a black Monday for the Université de Moncton, but it has been 10 years of darkness. If changes are not made, more dark years will follow.
The budget reductions take the form of cuts in the positions of professors who are not replaced and voluntary retirements. This is starting to have a major impact on our ability to offer high-quality programs, provide support to our students and offer them services. Consequently, the Université de Moncton is facing real financial risk. Although we have met our financial responsibilities so we can ensure the university's short-term survival, our long-term financial vitality is not guaranteed because we are facing a structural deficit. Our declining revenues prevent us from covering the expenses incurred in providing support for the various programs.
Even though we are introducing strategies for making efficiency gains, we are at a point where we have to make tougher choices such as cutting certain programs and services, postponing infrastructure maintenance and reducing both scientific and cultural activities on our campuses.
In fact, we are asking the federal government to introduce positive measures to support the development and vitality of the francophone communities.
We propose that the post-secondary educational institutions of the francophone minority communities, including the Université de Moncton, be granted financial support in addition to that provided for existing programs and that it become permanent in order to support their activities.
Project funding cannot be the only solution. Other solutions could include: a permanent subsidy annually indexed to the rate of inflation and a major trust fund like those granted for older English-language universities, which may use those funds to supplement inadequate operating capital. One example of a trust fund is that granted to the Canadian Institute for Research on Linguistic Minorities, the CIRLM, where the government has invested $10 million. The Institute uses the interest from its fund to finance its activities.
We obviously need scholarships for Canadian and even international students so we can lower their tuition fees to the same level as those of New Brunswick students.
Thank you for your attention.