Last year brought many complicating conversations about the future of Wilfrid Laurier University that we cannot forget.

The announcement of the projected $25-million deficit, the cutting of 22 support staff, breaking ties with Nipissing University, program changes, and a drop in enrollment numbers have all left unanswered questions for students, staff and faculty.

It has also been just over one year since Laurier published their Strategic Mandate Agreement between the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities in response to Ontario’s Differentiation Policy Framework for Postsecondary Education. Published in November of 2013, one has to wonder, is it this provincial government document that has uprooted Laurier’s confidence in the future?

The introduction of Ontario’s Differentiation Policy Framework for Postsecondary Education outlines: “The 2008 economic downturn and the ensuing precarious state of the global economy have made Ontario’s fiscal environment challenging. Substantial new investment by the government at levels comparable to the previous decade is not feasible. Also, as enrolment growth is expected to slow in the near future so too will operating grant funding.”

We have seen 45 publically-assisted colleges and universities sign strategic mandate agreements in order to “help guide future growth by encouraging more focus on unique strengths, while avoiding or limiting expansion in academic areas where programs already exist,” as written by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities in August of 2014.

But what does this mean to us here at Laurier?

WLUFA president Michelle Kramer explains that universities are now at somewhat of a competition for money from the government. Some unfortunate foreseeable events Kramer sees occurring are a shrinkage in number of courses offered, larger class sizes, and thus, less access to tutorial classes.

“What a university education should have been is getting lost. A lot of professors and students are sad to see it’s all coming down to this business model,” explains Kramer.

The White Paper, now being referred to as the Strategic Academic Plan Consultation Draft, is one major step Laurier seems to be taking in regards to our Strategic Mandate Agreement for 2014-2017.

Distribution of minutes from the Divisional Council Meeting that discussed this consultation draft have been pushed back to be approved by the Divisional Council before being made public. Melissa Huszczo, administrative manager for liberal arts, says this will take place after their next meeting on November 9 and the document will be published on their website.

If you, or someone you know may have answers to any of these questions or concerns, please email features@thesputnik.ca

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