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By Alex Nassiri

This fall, eight students from Ryerson University and the University of Prince Edward Island will go on an exchange program, but they won’t be leaving the country.

Instead, they’ll be swapping campuses with other Canadian students.

It’s part of the pilot run for the Experience Diversity Growth Exchange (EDGE) program, a brainchild of President Sheldon Levy and the first step toward what may eventually become a Trans-Canada degree.

It all began with talks between Levy, the University of Prince Edward Island president, Wade MacLauchlan, and a physics professor at both universities, Bill Whelan.

Together they began to draw up a plan that would allow students to experience an exchange program without crossing the border.

The hope is that by working with administrators at both schools as well as provincial government officials, students can experience a “varied, but seamless education,” Levy said.

However, there might be concerns with students in accredited programs like image arts, who need to take special classes.

“I think the concerns are if we can actually manage to work through the bureaucracy” he said. “I think that it’s a huge challenge, but it’s worth trying. We have a lot of professors involved,” he said.

Levy also said tuition would remain at a relatively equal rate to what students currently pay, and the only extra costs would be for rent and living expenses — no different than what most students pay now.

To further entice students, there will be scholarships available for a total of $750. Government stipends of $1,500 may possibly be made available to students, Whelan said.

The new program has piqued some students’ curiosity. They were interested to know just what leaving a bustling metropolis like Toronto to attend school in rural PEI, Canada’s smallest province would do for them.

“It seems like a good enough program, but I just don’t see why I would really want to leave Toronto to spend part of my education in PEI,” said Morgan Starr, a fourth-year RTA student.

“What do they have to offer that we can’t get here?” she asked.

Whelan, who has taught at UPEI for three years, said students will be surprised by the infrastructure and resources in place at the school.

“There are work and research opportunities out here that simply are not available in Toronto,” he said.

Whelan added that a few programs in particular, such as those involving biology and computer sciences, would benefit greatly.

“Students will have field research and work opportunities that only a small but still developing city like Charlottetown can offer,” he said.

If all goes according to plan this year, students interested in going on the exchange can begin the application process by the end of 2007.

Levy said he would use the success of the program to convince other universities across Canada to participate in the cross-country exchange.

He said his hopes are that in a few years, students will be able to seamlessly move semester by semester, from school to school to achieve a “truly Canadian education.”

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