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By Stephanie Cesca
Western will soon be ready to start construction on new campus facilities after getting the green light from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.
The Ministry announced last week how the Super Build Growth Fund's $660 million would be allocated to help modernize Ontario's post–secondary institutions.
"Western got one of its four projects approved," said Western president Paul Davenport. The project, entitled the Accessibility and Quality Project, received $45 million to help fund its $80 million cost. The project is intended to build new academic facilities on campus to accommodate the influx of students at post-secondary institutions in 2003 due to the double cohort, Davenport explained.
The project was Western's largest one, he said, adding two proposals were connected with Fanshawe College while the other project, entitled the Biomedical Sciences Project, proposed renovations to the existing infrastructure.
"As soon as possible, the province will fund [the latter] project," Davenport said, adding Minister Dianne Cunningham assured more money would be on the way. "We are very pleased. It will provide space for our increased enrollment."
Davenport said the Super Build money would be in Western's hands soon, allowing the university to commence building as soon as possible and continue within the next three years. "The province intends to transfer the funds by the end of the fiscal year which is March 31."
Kerry Delaney, spokesperson for the Ministry, said 109 proposals were reviewed and only 35 were accepted, making it very competitive.
With respect to Western's accepted proposal, Delaney said the Ministry was pleased to grant the needed funding. "It was a sizable project. It was a great project."
Delaney explained four criteria were taken into consideration when reviewing the proposals. The project would have to increase student spaces within the school as well as contribute to the long-term economic strength of the community or region. The institution would also have to raise funds for the project by other means and demonstrate a student demand for the proposed facility.
Since the announcement of the funding's allocation, Delaney said the Ministry has received a generally positive reaction. However, the 17 colleges and universities who did not receive any funding were not as enthusiastic.
Fanshawe College was one of the 17 schools who would not see a dime of the Super Build funding, said the school's president, Howard Rundle. "My initial reaction was shock and dismay," he said. "They didn't use criteria of whether or not the institution was full or the demand of the community."
Rundle said Fanshawe was in dire need for new classroom space as they have begun to hold classes in the school's cafeteria. "The universities in southwestern Ontario did really well. But other than that, the big surprise was southwestern Ontario's colleges," he said, explaining only two colleges in the region received any funding whatsoever.
Ultimately, this means the college would not be able to accommodate the influx of students in 2003, he said.
Mark Kissel, VP-education for the University Students' Council, said Fanshawe was ignored in the allocation. "Fanshawe College got completely left in the cold. They got completely nothing."
Yet for Western, Kissel said the news was good. "Some people are calling this a Band-Aid solution. But any money is good money."