What does it say about AU?
AU recently released its annual report for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2012. I always dig into this report as soon as It’s available, because in my job It’s important for me to know as much as I can about our students and the University. Each year the AUSU handbook/planner contains a page or two of demographic information, and students seem to really enjoy it. This year we opted to make the stats page a retrospective, comparing last year’s stats to those from 20 years ago, when AUSU was formed. Some of the differences were staggering (i.e., an AU course in 1992 was just $238, and the number of degrees awarded per year has risen from 115 to 1,508 in that timeframe!).
For those who want to know more about the sprawling AU student demographic, here are some highlights from the 2011-12 AU Annual Report, some comparisons with the past, and my thoughts about the future.
The total student headcount broke 40,000 in 2012; That’s about 30 per cent more than the U of C, and about 10 per cent more than the U of A, making AU both the largest university and the largest research institution in the province. AUSU’s sources at AU predicted that growth in 2012 would be minimal ? perhaps less than 1 per cent?but the report shows an actual growth of a whopping 3.9 per cent. This is the highest growth rate since 2008 and a significant increase from 2010-11 (1.8 per cent) and 2009-10 (0.6 per cent). Clearly, interest in AU course and programs is strong and growing fast! We do not yet know which provinces or country account for the most growth.
Enrolment demographics by course are always particularly revealing: the report shows that huge increases in the B. Commerce program, AU’s highest enrolment program (recent growth is perhaps in reaction to the new CMA accreditation, described below.) and the B. Human Resources and Labour Relations, which is one of the newer AU programs. Enrolment in the B. General Studies has decreased nearly 10 per cent while the B. Science has seen over 7 per cent attrition. The highest growth overall is in the AU nursing program which grew more than 20 per cent in 2012.
I’ve been told by some AU personnel that the growth in business and nursing programs has been largely attributed to the robust marketing and retention practices of those programs. It’s difficult to say for sure, but I can’t help but notice that those programs have also been cited for enhanced communication with students via regular newsletters and email lists. I’d like to know what voice readers think; send us a note!
Courses and Programs
AU offered 852 courses in 2012: It’s an astonishing number for a university of its size. That works out to around one course for every 45 students. Going forward, students should expect this number to shrink. AU has many courses on the roster that have gone more than a year without a single enrolment, and the cost of ensuring there are materials and tutors available for these courses is significant (for the record, tutors are only paid when they have students and only hired when there are sufficient students to trigger it; if a single student enrols in a low enrolment course, they will be assigned to a tutor who also teaches other classes). In the coming year AU will assess its course catalogue and retire courses for which there is little interest. We have been assured that no required courses will be affected, and that some faculties may offer alternatives, such as increased options for project courses that might include reading topics from retired courses.
It is not clear if programs will be affected (in 2012 AU offered 22 undergraduate credentials and 12 graduate programs). No programs closures are being considered at this time, but last week’s Alberta budget announcement has certainly raised concerns. As of this week, Mount Royal University in Calgary has announced the suspension of its Bachelor of Engineering?University Transfer Program, and critics expect to see similar cuts at other Alberta schools.
Nothing at AU has been more heavily scrutinized in the past year than its financial position. Curiously, none of the media coverage has included any hard numbers, though this information is readily available in on-line annual reports.
Comparing AU’s position from March 2003 to March 2012 indicates that its total assets have grown from $49 million to $106 million (the addition of new buildings and infrastructure is likely part of this), though liabilities have also grown from $32 million to $94 million. This tells us nothing about the cash flow and income of the university, however.
AU brought in just over $61 million and spent just under that amount in 2003, for a total surplus of $1.14 million. In 2011 revenue had soared to $124.5 million but the university showed a year-end deficit of $3.8 million. 2012 showed evidence of correcting this trend with a deficit of $0.8 million. With only $5 million in cash assets at 2012’s fiscal year-end, It’s clear that AU cannot absorb ongoing losses. Cash assets are down overall from $21 million in 2009, prior to the development of the new research centre.
One expenditure that cannot be ignored is the salary paid to AU executives: high executive salaries at Canadian schools have been subject to media scrutiny in past years, and have been a controversial topic at AU as well. AU’s exec salaries are listed in the Annual report and much has been made of the increases over the last five years: in 2007 the AU president earned (numbers in thousands) $326, compared to $540 today. The VP academic salary increased from $227 to $339, and the salary for the other VP positions increased by 15 per cent to 40 per cent In the wake of budget cuts, this issue continues to be raised; ironically, AU will likely save on executive salaries this year due to vacancy in a number of key positions (it is not believed that this is in any way a factor in the personnel changes).
The new (and somewhat controversial) Academic and Research Centre at AU opened on the main campus in July of 2011. As one of only four Comprehensive Academic Research Institutions (CARIs) in the province, AU has focused on providing office space for research staff and administration. The new building addresses that need, which may become increasingly important as Alberta schools jockey for limited educational funding.
AU also secured accreditation by the Certified Management Accountants of Canada for the B Comm accounting major. It is the first on-line accounting program to receive CMA accreditation and one of few overall in the country.
Other AU annual reports can be found here.