College says budget surplus earmarked for capital projects

By: Iris Dyck

Red River College Polytechnic is reporting a budget surplus for the second year in a row, but says they cannot use these funds to offset tuition or other costs for students.

According to RRC Polytech’s audited financial statements, the college had an annual surplus of over $19 million for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, and over $7 million in 2019-2020. But the College maintains these funds are already spoken for.

“The surplus in the 2019/20 and 2020/21 financial statements is primarily due to capital funding from the federal government we’ve received for the construction of Manitou a bi Bii daziigae and federal and provincial dollars for applied research activities,” said the college’s financial department in an emailed statement.

The federal government announced $40.6 million in funding for Manitou a bi Bii daziigae, then called the Innovation Centre, in 2017. In December 2021, RRC Polytech announced the largest fundraising campaign in its history, “In Front of What’s Ahead,” with a goal of $60 million directed toward RRC Polytech’s newest building.

The surpluses also coincide with the shift to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The College did not confirm whether it anticipates another surplus this year. 

In an emailed correspondence with The Projector, a college spokesperson said, “Historically, capital projects have largely been funded by federal and provincial grant funding, and contributions from donors and other third parties, not tuition fees.” 

Reuelly Garido (left) and her classmates work on an assignment in Manitou a bi Bii daziigae. RRC Polytech says the surplus indicated in their financial audit is set aside for capital projects like the new building./IRIS DYCK

But some students are wondering why they are paying fees for things they still can’t use.

Reuelly Garido has yet to attend a class on campus at RRC Polytech. The first-year Digital Media Design student still tries to spend as much time at the College as possible, despite all her courses being delivered remotely.

“In my head, I say, ‘If I’m paying for this much money, just the same as online school, I might as well just go to the school itself and work there,’” she said.

While she doesn’t mind paying into the services she uses, she thinks some, like lab fees, should be waived for remote learners. She believes the looming possibility of returning to campus is the reason why students haven’t seen any rebates on their fees.

“I like that we have this really nice space for students, and I don’t mind paying for that,” she said. “I think I’d like a little transparency as to where our tuition is going.”

“That’s what we’re paying for, is the possibility of going back to school.”