The University of Guelph has confirmed it is closing its two eastern Ontario agricultural school campuses in Kemptville and Alfred because of financial reasons.

The French programs offered at the Alfred campus could be saved in partnerships with schools in Ottawa and Sudbury.

The university said Wednesday the academic and research programs at the two campuses will be "consolidated" due to stalled enrolment and rising costs.

Both campuses will stop accepting new students in the fall of 2014, and classes and research programs will stop by the end of 2015. Guelph's Ridgetown campus will remain open and take in some of the Kemptville and Alfred research projects, the school said.

North Grenville Mayor David Gordon said the English Kemptville campus, which teaches around 180 students, is "the cornerstone of North Grenville."

The closures will eliminate at least 75 full-time positions at Kemptville and 37 at Alfred, as well part-time and casual workers, the university confirmed.

"It was sprung on us rather quickly," Gordon said.

100th anniversary plans were in the works

Students said they're disappointed the school, known as Kemptville College until the University of Guelph took over in 1997, has only one year left.

Key dates in school history

  • 1917: Kemptville College established
  • 1997: College begins affiliation with Guelph’s Ontario Agricultural College
  • 2006: Guelph designates Kemptville as a campus
  • Feb. 14, 2014: Campus director Dr. Claude Naud announces he will step down May 30.
  • Feb. 26, 2014: School announces first two years of equine management program moving from Kemptville to Guelph, beginning in fall.
     

"I was a little shocked by it. I didn't expect it," said Nelson Becker. "But it is a little school, so you can expect Guelph would be doing something like this."

"(I'm) just mainly disappointed they're not keeping this going, because mom and dad came here," said Dylan Kirkham.

Gordon said farmers across Eastern Ontario rely on the school for advice as specialists are on hand to answer questions about everything from crop management to dairy production.

The campus was the first to develop automatic milking machines for cows, he said

The Kemptville campus opened in 1917 and plans were in the works for "a massive celebration of 100 years in the community," Gordon said.

French programs could continue at other schools

There are 61 students registered at the French Alfred campus.

The University of Guelph said it is working with La Cité Collégiale in Ottawa and Collège Boréal in Sudbury, along with the province, to offer similar French programs for francophone students.

Collège Boréal has been offering its veterinary technician program in Alfred since 2000.

Lise Bourgeois, the president of La Cité Collégiale, said the Ottawa school is also considering new online agricultural courses for francophone students.