Government Announces Funding for AU Expansion

AU to receive $30 million for building/research centre

In an afternoon press conference this Friday, Alberta Minister of Advanced Education and Technology, Doug Horner, announced a $30 million grant for AU to address part of its request for technology and infrastructure funding.

This grant, the biggest one-time allotment to AU, was called the ?second biggest milestone? in the history of the university by President Frits Pannekoek. The first, he said, was the original move to Athabasca and the development of the original campus.

The funding is earmarked for the expansion of the main AU campus building, which is to be doubled in size by the addition of a 72,000 foot environment-friendly building that will house staff, academics, and university executives. Currently, some key offices are located outside of the main building in portable units while renovations are completed. Others are sharing small spaces meant for single employees.

AU notes that this funding will allow expansions that will ?provide capacity for up to 15,000 more course registrations in distance learning per year, or about 1,500 full-time equivalent students.?

AU Governing Council chair Joy Romero added that the funding will help AU reach its goal of 100,000 students by 2015 and go a long way toward ?reducing barriers to quality post-secondary education.?

Premier Ed Stelmach said that the government recognizes ?the importance new facilities have towards addressing government’s plan to build a stronger Alberta. This new capital investment will build upon Athabasca University’s position as Canada’s leading distance and online educator and will be another big step forward for our knowledge-based economy.?

As yet, no funding has been announced for increasing space in the cramped Edmonton and Calgary offices, nor is it clear if any of the monies will be earmarked for technology upgrades. Notably, the minister did not mention if this funding was a one-time allotment, or the first step toward bringing AU’s funding in line with other Alberta universities. He did, however, state that the grant ?recognizes the unique needs of an institute and community? like AU and Athabasca, and will provide opportunities for Albertans to study no matter where they live.

No information is available at press time regarding plans for the new research centre or what opportunities may become available for AU students to be involved in research projects.

In a late Thursday announcement, teleconference lines were made available for AU students to dial in and listen to the conference, and a recording of the conference will be available through the AU website shortly.

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