The University of Alberta has closed two programs at its satellite campus in Camrose due to provincial budget cuts to post-secondary funding made in Budget 2020.
The U of A’s faculties of rehabilitation medicine and nursing will close their master’s of science in physical therapy and after-degree nursing programs at Augustana, respectively. The programs will be discontinued over the next two years. The closures were announced to students, staff, and the community on May 6.
Current students within the master’s of science in physical therapy program will be allowed to finish their placement, albeit in either Edmonton or Calgary. The after-degree nursing students program will close at the end of August 2021, with no further first-year entry after September 2020. Students within the program will be allowed to finish their studies.
According to a news release sent out by Augustana, the provincial budget cuts forced the campus to close the two programs.
“Alberta’s post-secondary institutions are facing large cuts under the current provincial government,” it said. “An 11 per cent cut to the University of Alberta, in addition to the 6.9 per cent cut that the university received in the October 2019 budget announcement, have left many faculties to make significant and difficult decisions.
The master’s of science physical therapy program began at Augustana in 2010 as the first physical therapy distributed education program in Canada. The news release said the program acted as a model for the faculty of rehabilitation medicine’s other distributed education programs which were created to meet rehabilitation needs through all of Alberta. The release added that hundreds of registered nurses were educated through the Augustana after-degree program while helped rural health care.
Greta Cummings, faculty of nursing dean, said in the news release that the U of A remains “deeply committed to rural healthcare” despite the program closure.
“We regret that provincial budget cuts have forced this painful situation, and we are doing everything we can to minimize the impact of this closure on all stakeholders,” Cummings said.
Bob Haennel, faculty of rehabilitation medicine dean, said in the news release he “never anticipated” Augustana’s program would have to close.
“The budget situation simply left us no choice,” he said. “While we no longer have a program in Camrose we will do our very best to continue to address the shortage of physical therapists in rural Alberta.”
Students stunned and “disappointed” over the program closures
Several students from the nursing program at Augustana said they were “disappointed” over the program closures.
One student interviewed by The Gateway, who will remain anonymous for fear of repercussions of speaking out, said they were dismayed over how the faculty informed students and instructors about the closures.
An email was sent to students and instructors at 10:46 a.m. on May 6 from Cummings informing them of the closures. The student said the email came suddenly and unexpectedly.
“Students and instructors were very strongly shaken,” the student said. “The instructors were regretful that the students were not able to be informed through their instructors, but rather by receiving a sudden email titled, ‘Changes to Camrose Programs.'”
The student added they would have preferred to have received better notice of such a drastic change. They added that many instructors have been at Augustana for 12 years or longer.
“We are heartbroken for them,” they said.