University of Guelph shutting down Kemptville, Alfred agricultural campuses

It's official: the University of Guelph will close its Kemptville and Alfred agricultural campuses at the end of 2015 to help address a large deficit.

"We absolutely deeply regret that this decision had to occur," said Rich Moccia, the associate vice president of research at the University of Guelph. "It's not an easy thing when you have such a long and storied history of being involved in the agriculture industry in the province."

The move will kill more than 100 jobs in Kemptville, where the campus has been open under different incarnations for 97 years.

In Alfred, there will be more than 37 pink slips handed out. The Alfred campus is the only one in Ontario to offer Francophone courses, and the University of Guelph says it is working with other institutions to offer French programming.

Students who are currently enrolled at the campuses will be able to finish their degrees, however new intake is suspended for the fall 2014 semester.

It costs around $4.6-million per year to run the Kemptville campus and $2.3-million for the Alfred campus. Moccia said the closures would result in millions of dollars in savings for the institution, which has a $32-million deficit.

The move is not because of low registration - it's been stable over the past few years, but Moccia said they were hoping for more growth.

It's a decision that North Grenville Mayor David Gordon said will "rip the heart out of Eastern Ontario."

"It's intertwined in our cultural makeup," said Gordon. "I mean, we're proud of it, it's been here. It's our heritage."

The reality is just beginning to sink in on the Kemptville campus, where generations of families have studied.

"I was sad," student Lindsay Marino said. "I've only been here for one year so far, but it's definitely had a big impact on my life."

"I wanted to send my kids here and their kids and their kids because it's Kemptville College," said Emily Strutt. "It's been such a big part of everything."

Local politicians vow to fight the closures; MPP Steve Clark has already written an open letter to the premier.

Clark and Nepean-Carleton MPP Lisa MacLeod have launched a petition to keep the campuses open.

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