SMU gets a facelift

Major renovation project underway to accommodate higher enrolment

A major renovation project at Saint Mary’s University is slated for completion in March. (Photo: Dave Lidstone)

Saint Mary's University has the money, the manpower and the growing student body to justify updating its infrastructure.

For more than two years, the government has helped fund a major face-lift to campus facilities. Students and staff say it's about time.

"Our labs previously were not up to snuff compared to other universities and now, they're on par, if not exceeding many other universities in this province," says student union president and fourth-year commerce student, Matt Anderson, 22.

The school built a new atrium for the Patrick Power Library connecting it to the science building. Renovations to the McNally building have added parking lots and a health and wellness centre.

Campus master plan

Funding has been provided by the federal government's Knowledge Infrastructure Program, the Nova Scotia Strategic Opportunities Fund Inc. and from students through a mandatory campus renewal fee of $66 per six credit hours.

In his September report on the state of Nova Scotia's universities, Tim O'Neill says there has been a decline in enrolment around the province. Enrolment peaked in 2003-04, but it is expected to decline over the next five years. But Saint Mary's seems to have defied this trend.

Enrolment increased by more than two per cent this year, says Anderson. "Students are seeing we have stronger facilities ... it helps."

O'Neill also warned of a reduction in government operating grants awarded to universities. This is a key consideration when planning major renovations; universities need enough money and students to justify them but Saint Mary's has both of these things.

"I think it's great ... better quality school, better technology, more parking ... more everything," says second-year political science student Matthew Iris, 26. "You need renovations to keep up-to-date."

Students have not seen a hike in campus renewal fees since 2003. Anderson and Iris both agree that the project is justified because of increased study space, more computers and the added visual appeal.

"Once it's done, the school will be an aesthetically pleasing place to go," Wilson says. The project is expected to be completed by March.

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