Ongoing emergency financial support from the province for Acadia University is coming as news to other university presidents in Nova Scotia.
On Thursday, the government officially closed the books on the 2016-17 fiscal year. With those documents came the revelation the province provided a $10.5-million bailout to the Wolfville university.
Government officials refused to discuss the decision or explain why the money was necessary.
Acadia president Peter Ricketts said the funding, which included forgiveness of a $7-million loan from 2011 and a $3.5-million operating grant from 2012-13 up to 2015-16, helped the university avoid making cuts and puts it on stable footing.
This works out to a total of $24.5 million.
News comes as a surprise
The school first made the money request last fall to the Advanced Education Department. Following an independent financial analysis of the school's situation, the request was forwarded to the Treasury Board in June where it was approved and the school was notified.
Peter Halpin, executive director of the Council of Nova Scotia University Presidents, said of the three university presidents he spoke with on Friday, none of them was aware of Acadia's side deals with the province and they "expressed surprise about learning about the arrangement."
The council is working as quickly as possible to convene a meeting to discuss the matter, he said.
Proof of a funding crisis
A government spokesperson said the only other university to receive emergency funding in recent years is NSCAD, which received a total of $10.2 million from 2009-10 to 2015-16. The amount requested varied each year.
Meanwhile, representatives of the Canadian Federation of Students-Nova Scotia issued a news release on Friday saying the situation is "further proof of the funding crisis in the post-secondary education system in Nova Scotia."
"The role of government is not to provide bailouts, it is to provide appropriate levels of funding that don't force universities into times of financial crisis," said chairperson Aidan McNally in the release.