The University of Guelph-Humber is playing the waiting game.
The University of Guelph and Humber College submitted a joint proposal last year asking for resources to expand the collaborative institution’s physical capacity.
The submission was in response to the Major Capacity Expansion Policy Framework, issued by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities in early 2014.
Post-secondary institutions were asked to submit proposals to “expand capacity in areas where student demand is strong and where there are gaps in access to an undergraduate degree,” according to an email from ministry spokesperson May Nazar.
The deadline to submit was Sept. 26, 2014. At that time, 19 proposals were submitted and 13 of those proceeded to the evaluation stage.
More than six months later, Guelph-Humber and its related institutions are still waiting.
Guelph-Humber’s Vice-Provost John Walsh said he hasn’t heard anything about the progress of the proposal.
“No, is the short answer on that, but I do have some update information,” he said.
“There are nine active proposals being considered, of which Guelph-Humber is one,” said Walsh.
“The latest information that I have is that the province will actively review all nine, with a committee for each one, and as soon as that deliberation is completed, there might be a period of some clarification where we’re asked additional questions,” he said.
Walsh said three proposals will be selected by the province for funding over a number of years.
“We’ve also been reminded that we’re not sure how many proposals, if any, are actually going to be approved,” said Humber President Chris Whitaker. “Initially they said up to three proposals would be approved but we have been told that up to three could mean three, two, one, or zero.”
He said the institutions that proposed plans are waiting to see if funding is announced in the provincial budget. If not, the government can always delay and get back to the proposals at a later date.
“But right now, there’s still some uncertainty around what’s going to happen,” said Whitaker.
The joint proposal centres on a new building for Guelph-Humber, which Walsh says would be “about twice the size of what we have now.”
For the most part, Guelph-Humber students are excited about the proposed growth.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said third-year Early Childhood student Cristina Bianchi.
“We are an amazing program with seven unique programs with a degree and diploma together and the fact that we get to expand and give this opportunity to other people would be amazing,” said Bianchi.
Third-year Business student Tomson Varghese says admissions increased at Guelph-Humber in the past two years.
“It’s a testament to what we actually want to do and I think expanding will be a huge step in that direction,” he said.
“In the job market today, it’s so crucial to be able to have hands-on experience and Guelph-Humber provides that. And you also have the credentials of a university degree,” said first-year Justice Studies student Emma Kelly.
“The job market is going to keep getting more competitive. Guelph-Humber really caters to (employability) and the more programs available, the more students and graduates will be created that can be hired,” said Kelly.
Alan Celej, a second-year Justice Studies student says people get confused about whether the university is either Humber or Guelph.
“I think, with the expansion, that’s going to bring some awareness so people don’t have to ask me, ‘Where do you go to school?’ anymore,” Celej said.
“The larger we grow, the bigger reputation and the more awareness that brings to our school. The more people know about our school, it’s just going to be better for all potential students,” he said.
“Reputation is a huge factor for us. Even when we graduate, we want to come back and see that Guelph-Humber is established and this building will be a testament to that,” said Varghese.
The reality is that Guelph-Humber is growing and cannot afford to entertain the idea of a rejected proposal.
“Currently within the building we have, we’re limited because Guelph-Humber is at capacity. So if Guelph-Humber is to grow, it needs another solution,” said Whitaker.
“We do need more space. So we need to figure out, if we’re not successful, what’s our next step,” he said.
“For Humber, we’re going into a campus development planning process in the coming year. So that’s having a look at all of our assets and physical infrastructure at all of our campuses and saying, ‘Okay, we are anticipating enrolment growth, now where are we going to put these students?’” Whitaker said.
“It’s pretty tight here but we always have the option to create more space on campus, which we could, but we’d have to build up,” said Whitaker.
Guelph-Humber’s Vice-Provost is considering other alternatives.
“The kind of strategies we’re exploring with both institutions, if that becomes the case, is to increase in two areas,” said Walsh.
He said that includes summer and weekend programming.
“In addition, what we would be able to do is to increase the number of distance courses which gives students a great deal of flexibility. The impact is, of course, we don’t have those students in classrooms, so we could bring students in there,” Walsh said.
Without the aid of a crystal ball, however, there is no way to predict what the provincial government will do. All that is left to do is wait.