Vet college gets new funding deal

Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia reach five-year agreement without Alberta, which now has its own school

For the first time in its 54-year history, three provinces instead of the usual four are taking part in a long-standing arrangement with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon.

An interprovincial agreement was recently renewed for the college, which is based at the University of Saskatchewan.

The financial commitment of $134 million by the Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Manitoba governments will ensure five more years of uninterrupted education for the WCVM.

“Saskatchewan, B.C. and Manitoba absolutely are continuing to fund the college in exactly the same way, which we are incredibly grateful for because it means we are locked into a stable funding agreement for five years. It’s pretty important for us to be able to plan in order to develop our education program and to meet our accreditation standards,” said Chris Clark, associate dean for academics at the WCVM.

Alannah Friedlund, Western Canadian Students’ Veterinary Association president, said in a statement that the agreement will ensure many more students will receive the training they need.

It will also help meet the growing demand for veterinarians and veterinary research across Western Canada.

Under the new agreement, Saskatchewan and B.C. each purchased 20 seats for first-year intakes, which amounts to 80 seats over four years. Manitoba bought 15 first-year seats, which is 60 students during the four years.

“It roughly works out to a little over $8 million for B.C. and Saskatchewan and Manitoba would be $6 million. It’s something like $103,000 per student per year,” said Brent Brownlee, acting executive director of the sector management and relations branch in the advanced education ministry.

Since the mid-1960s the four western provinces have collaborated to fund the WCVM.

The internationally accredited facility includes a veterinary medical centre, a provincial diagnostic laboratory and large-scale research facilities.

However, this will be the first time that there’s not a first-year intake of Alberta students in the four-year program.

Alberta announced three years ago it was not renewing the funding agreement in 2020 in support for the veterinary program at the University of Calgary, which was expanding its own program by adding an extra 20 students per year.

“It’s always been four provinces since the beginning. This is the first year that there’s not a first-year intake of Alberta students via this agreement. So Alberta will still have students who are going into their second, third and fourth year at the college. And obviously then over three years they won’t have any students that are getting into the college via the agreement,” said Brownlee.

“They’re still paying for the seats that their second and third and fourth year students are in, but they are not admitting students under this agreement from Alberta,” he said.

The WCVM has come up with several solutions to meet the financial impact on programs and services created by Alberta’s withdrawal from the program.

“One of the things that the college did to address the funding gap is they’re going to offer 25 seats at sort of the price that students would pay to attend an international veterinarian school,” he said.

“We refer to that as the non-interprovincial agreement price.”

It’s a pilot project that has actually increased first year enrolment by five students.

“We took 25 additional students from Western Canada. So those students came in because a number of those students were already looking at going to international schools,” said Clark.

Students in the pilot program are paying the going rate of other international veterinary schools, which is about $68,000 per student.

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