British Columbia

Quest University athletes shocked after school suspends varsity program

Students athletes at Quest University say they're stunned after the school abruptly pulled the plug Thursday on its varsity athletics program.

President of private school in Squamish, B.C., cites financial pressures

Sixty students will be affected by Quest's decision to suspend its varsity athletics program.

Student athletes at Quest University Canada say they're stunned after the school abruptly announced Thursday that it's pulling the plug on its varsity athletics program. 

In an email to students, university president George Iwama said the Squamish, B.C., school will suspend its program at the end of March.

Quest — a private, not-for-profit university with roughly 600 students — has men's and women's varsity teams in basketball and soccer. 

The suspension will affect 60 athletes, about 10 per cent of the school's population. 

The school will instead place greater focus on sport clubs and intramurals, fitness classes and wellness programs, Iwama wrote. 

"I know this will be a disappointment to fans of our beloved Kermodes," he said. 

Lack of consultation 

Kyra Boulding, a third-year student on the women's varsity basketball team, said she received Iwama's email just as athletes had gathered for a meeting with school officials. 

"We were all completely shell shocked," she said. "People were immediately overwhelmed with all these decisions they had to make." 

Boulding said the decision has dashed her hopes of playing on a varsity team.

Most programs cut off their admissions applications in January and varsity rosters have been set for next year, she said. 

Boulding said it would be too difficult to transfer schools because of Quest's unconventional program.

Students operate on a block schedule, taking one class at a time for 3½ weeks.

She and her fellow athletes are speaking out about the school's "harmful" decision and lack of consultation. 

A petition denouncing the suspension had accumulated 265 signatures as of Sunday evening. 

The exterior of a university.
Quest University is a private university in Squamish, B.C., with about 600 students. Students pay tuition costs averaging around $30,000 a year. (Quest University)

'It saddens me'

Iwama told CBC News that the decision was partly financial. The private university is cash strapped and grappling with $20 million of debt, he said. 

Quest doesn't receive government funding and draws on private donations and steep tuition fees that average $30,000 a year. 

Iwama, who joined as president in September, said the varsity program cost roughly $300,000 to $400,000 a year to operate. 

The board of governors wanted to instead invest in the health and wellness of all students, he said. 

"It saddens me to have to implement this," he said. "I'm known on campus as someone who loves the games and I attend them as much as I can." 

The school will honour varsity scholarships and waive students' transfer fees, he said. 

Board made decision 2 weeks ago

The university's board of governors made its decision on Jan. 13, two weeks before students were alerted. 

The idea to end the program had been considered for several years, Iwama said, but the current suspension was first proposed as far back as 18 months ago.

The proposal was approved as applications for next year began to stream in from varsity hopefuls. 

Iwama acknowledged the seven-member board had erred in its timeline. 

"Perhaps they waited a little too long in terms of key deadlines for current athletes," he said.


Alex Migdal is a senior producer with the CBC News social and audience team. He was previously a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver. You can reach him at