Mount Royal University officials have opted to not reinstate any of the eight programs suspended in the wake of March’s provincial budget cuts, despite receiving an injection of more than $2 million earlier this month.
The school is, however, planning to add course sections in popular areas no later than January to aid with a struggle to fit students into general-education offerings.
University spokesperson Paula Arab said while Mount Royal received $2.1 million in additional dollars Nov. 6, it only represents 2.6 per cent of a budget that was cut down 9.3 per cent in once-promised funding.
“It would be irresponsible of us to restore programs that are still not properly funded,” Arab said.
Talk of reinstating the programs was raised at a meeting of Mount Royal’s general faculties council last week, but little favour was found among staff still fearing more cuts could come. Mount Royal is still staring down a near-$7 million shortfall over the next two years after already closing a $14-million gap in the spring.
The school also has eyes on upgrading to bachelor-degree offerings in interior design, physical education and social work — a move that would come with added costs.
Still, Minister Thomas Lukaszuk told Metro earlier this month that the money offered Nov. 6 – $50 million total provincewide — should be used to fund healthy programs suspended amid difficult budget deliberations in the spring.
He conceded that while many low-enrolment programs were put on the block, a few removed from course calendars were actually turning away qualified applicants annually. Fine arts proponents both at Mount Royal and in the community were quick to point out that the school’s suspended jazz and theatre performance programs fell into the latter category.
Jim Brenan serves as chair of the programs and said Sunday he was disappointed more consideration wasn’t being given to restoring them.
“It’s still a strike to the fine arts in Calgary,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that the opportunity existed for reinstatement and they didn’t go that direction.”
But Arab said Mount Royal had communicated with the province about where it intends to use the $2.1 million and was told their plan to add courses was “appropriate.” She said the added sections will have an “immediate effect.”
“It’s something students have complained about, that they can’t get into the courses they want because the sections available are now filling up faster in the more popular courses,” she said.
Still, Gerry Cross, head of Mount Royal’s faculty association, questioned claims from the university’s top executives in the spring that the programs suspended could still be restored if more money materialized.
“Now, some of the funding has been restored,” he said. “Those decisions, which we were told at the time were not irreversible, should be reconsidered.”
The University of Calgary, SAIT and Bow Valley College have yet to share any plans publicly on how they will use their additional provincial funding.