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Column: Province supporting Laurentian and its students, minister says

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By Jill Dunlop

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There has been a lot of focus on Laurentian University and its future, and rightly so. Post-secondary education is so crucial to the communities in which they serve, and Laurentian is no exception.

As the minister of Colleges and Universities, I know that Laurentian is more than just a place of study – it’s a core part of Sudbury’s identity. It is an important economic contributor, not just in Sudbury, but throughout Northern Ontario.

The university’s facilities and amenities are used as community and event spaces and Laurentian staff and students contribute to the local economy and tourism, with graduates becoming integral members of the region’s workforce. That is why I recognize how challenging this time has been for the community, especially for students, parents, faculty, all who have a personal stake in the university.

Laurentian serves a diverse student population of English, French, and Indigenous learners, all of whom I am committed to supporting. We have continued to provide operating funding to Laurentian, as well as special purpose funding that supports French-language education and support through the Indigenous Student Success Fund.

The government has always been clear that it will be there to support tri-cultural post-secondary education in Sudbury and Northern Ontario.

We are ensuring that we make the right decisions that will result in the best outcome for the community. It is for these reasons that I announced in December that my ministry would provide support to Laurentian through cost savings and greater financial relief.

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Since day one of Laurentian filing under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), the Ontario government has been in regular contact with the university and has been committed to helping Laurentian chart a course for success so that it can continue to serve students, parents , faculty and the community.

In Spring of 2021, when Laurentian informed students of program cancellations, the province stepped in to provide financial support to impacted students who would need to transfer to another institution to continue their studies. Our government’s priority has been and will always remain our students. No student should have to worry about their academic future because of the current situation at Laurentian.

The province continues to work with Laurentian to position itself for long-term financial sustainability. We have now taken the significant step of providing the university with more stability by replacing the Debtor-in-Possession lender, as Laurentian continues through the CCAA process, and are also providing a $6 million grant for COVID-related costs.

Finally, our government has also agreed to suspend recoveries under the enrollment corridor funding model to ensure funding stability and predictability.

We have also supported the renewal of Laurentian’s Board of Governors, with the province appointing five new members to the Board. We are confident these members have the strong skillsets and the experience needed to move the university forward.

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There is still a lot more work to be done. Laurentian will continue restructuring in response to the fiscal reality they face. Rebuilding will take patience, time, and effort.

The Ontario government has demonstrated its commitment to supporting high-quality post-secondary education in Northern Ontario so that students have choice in what they learn, including Indigenous and French-language programmes.

As government, we will continue to listen to advice and recommendations and we expect that Laurentian’s Board will take the steps necessary to guarantee a strong, financially stable future for the university, and more importantly, its students.

Securing a strong future for Laurentian will be a collective effort. We all want to see a future where students in Northern Ontario have strong options to study close to home and our government, just as its done since the beginning, will continue to act in the best interests of students and families in Northern Ontario.

Jill Dunlop is Ontario’s minister of Colleges and Universities.

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