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More student seats

Funding bid may ease access crunch

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With luck, the University of Calgary will be able to admit more students into high-demand programs this September.

The Access Growth Fund, part of Bill 1, commits $90 million to the province's post-secondary institutions over the next three years to increase access to existing programs. The initial Fast Track 2005 commitment promises to make $14 million available to institutions on a competitive basis this year alone, but the selection process has been criticized for not allowing enough time to fill new seats.

"The process occurs quite late in the year, past the cycle of admis- sions," said U of C Associate Vice-President Academic Dr. Robert Woodrow. "Nevertheless, we are hard at work putting together a proposal."

Post-secondary institutions have until June 15 to submit a proposal requesting a portion of the funding. Results will be announced in mid-July, leaving successful institutions with only weeks to admit enough students to fill new spaces.

Woodrow noted the funding would be targeted to increase operation budgets of existing programs if the U of C successfully attains a portion of the fund.

Advanced Education Minister Dave Hancock stressed the Fast Track program is necessary to ensure the creation of spaces in time for the 2005-06 school year.

"We have to operate within the time-frames we have," Hancock said, stressing any new spaces created will continue to be budgetted for after the three-year commitment. "It's not a one time shot, but an ongoing build."

Woodrow is confident the U of C would be able to put the money to use, even within the limited time-frame.

"We have been quite successful in the past in putting together a number of proposals," he said. "But it's a challenge."

The last time the government offered competitive funding to create new student spaces was in 2003. Of the $10 million awarded province-wide, the U of C proposal garnered $3.7 million and created 107 new spaces in the bachelor of health sciences program and the biomedical engineering special-ization.

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