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Better spaces for more students, hopefully

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Students on campus won't have to worry about catching a cold from a drafty window anymore.

The province of Alberta gave post-secondary institutions across Alberta almost $155 million for their maintenance and infrastructure needs last Friday, billed as the largest ever allocation of funds for the maintenance of Alberta's post-secondary institutions. The University of Calgary also received funding for 227 new spaces.

"Normally, we submit a budget to the Alberta government with what money we need for maintenance and other capital projects," said U of C president Harvey Weingarten. "This year, in addition to the $14 million that we received for regular maintenance-- which is the most money we've ever been granted by the Alberta government-- we're also receiving $9 million in additional funds."

The $9 million is being earmarked by the government under the university's Building Envelope Renewal Program.

"The Building Envelope Renewal Program is really a name for deferred maintenance," said Weingarten. "[The money] will go to making sure windows are sealed and doors are fixed, things of that nature."

While it may be the most money ever given to the university for building maintenance, Students' Union vice president external Alastair MacKinnon said there is still a need for university maintenance funding.

"We're always happy for extra money for deferred maintenance," explained MacKinnon. "There's still $320 million worth of deferred maintenance, which we're always concerned about. We're still a little disappointed that there's no money going to housing renovations on campus. That's all ancillary fees that pay for that."

The provincial government has also funded the creation of 2,447 post-secondary positions across Alberta. The U of C received funding for 227 new seats in high-demand areas such as the bachelor of science neuroscience program which received 15 new seats and the doctorate program in bio-medical engineering which received eight.

Weingarten explained these seats will create more access for students to the incredibly desirable programs.

"We have 50 seats opening up in the bachelor of commerce program," said Weingarten. "Over four years, that means that we'll have 200 more students who will be able to enter into the program."

MacKinnon noted that, while the creation of more seats is important to students trying to get into these programs, it needs to be balanced with the creation of support staff.

"Improving access is always a great thing," he explained. "Our biggest concern is the funding and resourcing of these positions. It's one thing to open up a spot, but you need space for them, instructors, administrative and advising resources."

He also noted the creation of space in academic programs is just as important as creating physical space.

"There needs to be student space for these new students," said MacKinnon. "It doesn't matter how many new spaces, so long as they're properly funded and resourced so they're not an overall burden to the system."

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