Build it, and they will come
Mount Royal’s decade-long quest for university status seems to be hitting its zenith.
Inspectors from the Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada — the country’s de facto university accrediting body — will soon visit Mount Royal. They will consider whether we are on par with other universities in the country and, more importantly, whether graduate universities should accept applicants holding a Mount Royal bachelor’s degree.
Editorials in the Calgary Herald scream for the Alberta government to get off their duffs and change the damn name, already. “Refusing Mount Royal’s request (for a name change) only further cements Alberta’s reputation as a province that places too little value on the benefits of a university education,” Paula Arab wrote in the paper Jan. 22.
College, by the way, is now a dirty word and has been deliberately dropped from all promotional material. For all intents and purposes, this school is now “Mount Royal” or “MR.” This will undoubtedly save thousands of hoodie owners from embarrassment when this school is called “Mount Royal University.”
More than 80 per cent of Mount Royal students are enrolled in a university-level program. Curriculum, governance and faculty are up to the university standard, or close to it.
Marshall, always willing to spread his message through the media, told the Herald last week that Mount Royal is “99.9 per cent there” in the transition.
Not so fast, Dave. It might be a foregone conclusion that MRU is coming, but I fear the change will be an empty one.
You will have your university. Now it’s time to build a campus worthy of that title.
This school has planned hundreds of millions of dollars in new buildings and infrastructure. Take a gander at the “Campus Master Plan” links on your MyMRC home page.
“The campus will need to evolve by providing more flexible study areas for students, new research and development spaces, and a more formal structure of interior and exterior spaces that is conducive to a university environment,” the plan reads.
A four-storey library building. An expanded science centre for research. A parkade, to fix the college’s massive parking problems. Seven new academic buildings. New residence buildings. A concert hall. Ongoing, extensive renovations. The list goes on.
Who will pay for all this? Well, it depends. For example, building the new library and converting the existing space into a health sciences centre will cost about $187 million. The government is expected to cover about 80 per cent of that, and Mount Royal will solicit donations from the community through a capital campaign to cover the rest. But the parkade, which will cost about $45 million, won’t receive any government money and must be funded by students and staff through parking fees.
Marshall is a one-step-at-a-time kind of guy, and is “optimistic” the government will pony up some cash. “They recognize there’s a severe access challenge in Alberta,” he said in an interview last year. “You can’t just add bodies, you need to add space as well.”
Although these projects are still in the planning stage, that shouldn’t affect the university transition. The fact the college has concrete, “achievable” plans and is moving forward is good enough, according to Marshall.
But even if the dollars start flowing today, it will take years to actually build all of this. The library project — already years in the making — will be done around 2016 at the earliest, long after current students have moved on.
It will be awesome to be a Mount Royal University student in 2035 or so. But right now, 12,000 of us are paying university-level fees for what seems like a giant high school.
The government hasn’t ignored us. It forked over $53 million to expand the Centre for Continuous Learning and the science wing — construction will start in May. In 2008, Mount Royal got $2.1 million to lease space for the expanded nursing program and $11 million for the conversion to new bachelor’s degrees.
Rachel Bouska, a spokesperson for Alberta Advanced Education and Technology, said “no institution is being overlooked . . . we’ve said time and time again what an important role Mount Royal College plays in the campus Alberta system.” Indeed, Mount Royal plays a unique role by providing a student-focused education that rivals any school in Canada.
The administration has carefully planned every step and lived up to their end of the bargain. Collectively, they have it together. It’s time for the government to live up to all their talk: change the name, and help build a campus worthy of Alberta’s fifth university.