Budget welcomed by Memorial University officials
With significant increases in operating and capital funding, senior officials of Memorial University were giving a thumbs-up to the March 30, 2006 provincial budget.
Dr. Axel Meisen, Memorial's president, said that the budget is a clear indication of the support of the government for post-secondary education. "The allocations to Memorial University have increased overall," he said. "We will now be able to move forward on several important initiatives, while ensuring that the quality of our programs and facilities is maintained."
One of the highlights of the budget is $13 million in funding for infrastructure improvements. "For some time now we have recognized the need to revitalize important areas of the university," he said. "For example, we need a new sciences research building to replace the aged Science Building, and we need to improve our student residences by revitalizing existing buildings and developing new residences in St. John's and Corner Brook. The budget gives us the opportunity to start some of those projects."
There is a continuing $5 million allotment for deferred maintenance at the university. "This will be most helpful," said Dr. Meisen. "Many of our buildings and facilities are over 30-years old and require significant upgrading and renovation. The continued support for our deferred maintenance program is a necessary step."
Dr. Meisen welcomed the grant increase that will enable the university to continue to freeze tuition fees. "Newfoundland and Labrador has the lowest tuition fees in the country outside of Quebec," he said. "The government is providing us with the funding to maintain that status. That's important to students from Newfoundland and Labrador, but it also serves to attract students from elsewhere in Canada who are seeking a low-cost, high-quality university education."
Research is also getting a boost in the budget. "The government has provided $7.5 million in support of research, which is an increase," he said. "Memorial University and College of the North Atlantic researchers will be able to access that fund to lever additional research funding from federal and private sources, so this is a very welcome initiative."
Other initiatives include funding for: a training ship for the Marine Institute ($1.1 million); improvements of the Offshore Survival and Safety Training Centre in Foxtrap ($500,000); the Apprenticeship Initiative where Memorial and the government will hire skilled trades apprentices to enhance their training ($300,000); the Centre of Environmental Excellence headquartered at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Memorial's campus in Corner Brook. ($500,000)
"Overall this is a very positive budget for Memorial University, even though we did not get all we asked for," said Dr. Meisen. "We will now start the detailed planning necessary to deploy the new funds."