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New vending machines on campus part of provincial cost-cutting plan

At budget forums, program announcements, and in meeting rooms around the province, the message is consistent: the provincial government is allowing public education funding to fall. In some cases provincial funding is now approaching only 50 per cent of university operating budgets.

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vending machine on the left with water fountain on the right.

By Michael Scoular (The Cascade) – Email

vending machine on the left with water fountain on the right.

Image Credit: Megan Lambert

At budget forums, program announcements, and in meeting rooms around the province, the message is consistent: the provincial government is allowing public education funding to fall. In some cases provincial funding is now approaching only 50 per cent of university operating budgets.

To offset this news, the BC government has countered with some alternative measures: in­stead of guaranteed Adult Edu­cation funding, the possibility of individual grants. Or, when it comes to administrative costs, bargaining infrastructure they dubbed the Administrative Ser­vice Delivery Transformation (ASDT) initiative when it was introduced in 2012.

The latest work of the ASDT will bring an all-new set of vend­ing machines to UFV for 2015-16. The ASDT bears an ambitious title, and its purpose — bringing together every public post-sec­ondary institution in the prov­ince — is complex. But its focus is narrow, streamlining everyday processes with the intent of sav­ing costs. The vending machine agreement follows developments in the areas of IT service, natu­ral gas supply, and purchasing cards.

“That is part of the provincial government’s mandate,” said an­cillary services director Cameron Roy, who led the proposal and contract process for the project. “The vending initiative was done so that it brings value. The whole idea is [higher] volume purchas­es will bring in a better invest­ment in the institution.”

With the ability to promise an entire group of campuses that will house products and services for students who will use them, proposals through the ASDT are superior to what UFV has seen in the past, Roy said.

For the vending machines, the Vancouver-based Ryan Company Ltd. offered additional product, scholarship investment, and the potential for UFV grad hires in the future. In order to agree on those terms, the contract length ended up being seven years, with the option for three additional two-year terms. Roy says the uni­versity believes the benefits will be worth it.

“Typically our contracts are five years,” he said. “But we col­lectively decided, among all the team members of our working group, seven years would be a better return on investment.”

When the Ministry of Ad­vanced Education announced the vending machine contract, it did so saying the agreement “will save the initial participating in­stitutions up to $4 million over the life of the contract.”

Roy explains that this optimis­tic summary looks a bit different when broken down from UFV’s point of view, and does not ap­ply if the contract is not extended with both optional terms.

“That is the best-case scenario … it’s not a misnomer, because we will see that over 13 years, but it won’t be [all UFV] … that’s the collective,” he says.

Overall revenue from the ASDT, in this particular case di­vided among the 11 institutions who have joined the vending ma­chine agreement, will also be an amount that fluctuates from year to year, depending on the sta­tus of projects. In the Ministry’s 2015-16 letter regarding budget expectations sent to UFV chief fi­nancial officer Jackie Hogan, a reduction of $720,247 in UFV’s bud­get falls under the year-over-year change in “Post-secondary Sector Administrative Efficiencies.”

For now, UFV can count on the ASDT to be a continued source of new developments. The Min­istry’s mandate letter to UFV’s Board of Governors includes the initiative as a “strategic prior­ity action,” and timelines from the summer show plans for new deals related to travel manage­ment (contract by September), office supplies (proposals were scheduled for August), and natu­ral gas (UFV is listed as on-board for a winter buy-in). Hogan and UFV president Mark Evered will continue to serve on the initia­tive’s steering and executive committees, respectively.

As for the vending machines, Roy said they will improve life for students in small, hopefully invisible ways; a good machine, apparently, is one that doesn’t stick out too noticeably.

“We are looking to reduce the number of machines on campus — to be more efficient with our power — but also so [we] don’t turn the campus into [a place that has] a vending machine every 20 metres,” he said.

According to Roy, the new vending machines will also be more power-efficient, and accept more payment options besides cash. The one exception will be the new Student Union Build­ing on the Abbotsford campus, where the Student Union Society manages space and food options separate from the rest of the uni­versity.

With files from Megan Lambert.

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