Red Deer College (RDC) students have returned for the 2018/19 school year and the institution is expecting around a 2 per cent increase in enrollment for the year.
The increase, according to RDC President and CEO Joel Ward, comes in spite of a drop in apprenticeship numbers from the Province.
“There has been a steady decline over the last couple years in apprenticeship numbers and those numbers are assigned to us. Because of the economy and pipelines and all of these things, apprenticeship numbers are flat or even declining,” Ward said.
The increased enrollment is instead coming on the heels of new programs being introduced at RDC.
“All of our other numbers are up,” he said. “Usually we get a one to three per cent increase — we will know the numbers by the end of the month, but it is looking like another two per cent increase which we have had almost every year since I have been here.”
The new programs introduced at RDC, which are all full and wait listed, include RDC’s first degree, the Bachelor of Applied Arts in Animation and Visual effects; a Bachelor of Science in Psychology through the University of Calgary; a two-year Justice Studies Diploma; a Pre-Health Science Certificate; a Health Care Management Post-Diploma Certificate; an E-Learning Instructor Post-Diploma Certificate and an Adult and Higher Education Instructor Post-Diploma Certificate.
Ward said this is all part of the College’s mission to provide programs that lead to jobs and careers for their graduates.
“This will be a milestone, capstone year in this institution’s 55-year history,” he said. “Never in our history has more things happened in such a short period of a time.”
Included in that is the opening of the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre; the opening of the new student residence, which will house athletes during the 2019 Canada Winter Games; the College’s new Alternative Energy Lab; and the ground-breaking of a new facility in conjunction with the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre.
“We will be putting shovels in the ground in the spring with the Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre Partnership,” Ward said. “That is a new building that will go up in the next 12 months to support children and families in crisis, and also to connect not only to our community, but to our students in our social work program, our education program, and our kinesiology program.
“All will have opportunities to do practicums and internships in that new facility.”
All these facilities are pieces of the puzzle in terms of RDC transitioning to become a university.
“We are in transition now and the work we are doing with the government is submitting that transition plan,” Ward said.
The College will submit their transition plan to the Government of Alberta in October, followed by a public consultation that will help decide the future name of the institution. The College will submit their new name in February.
“Whether they choose to rename in February or wait two to three years until we transition is up to them, but we will have a new community name this year,” he said.
The transition has the potential to be affected by a new provincial government next year, but Ward does not foresee damaging choices for the College.
“There is a potential it could slow down a little bit but we push hard all the time. There is no indication from them (the UCP Party of Alberta) that they would stop this from happening,” he said.
Chaise Combs, RDC Students’ Association president, said the changes at RDC this year will have a monumental impact on students, which makes the Students’ Association very relevant to the student experience.
“Students’ Associations are relevant and necessary and I think the best way to show that is to do our job very well and that is what we intend to do,” he said. “Ultimately, the student movement is a collective effort and the more students are engaged, the more ability we have to influence positive change.”
One of the potential jobs of the Students’ Association will be to help students during the transitional period of the Canada Games.
“We are really excited for the Games to be coming to Red Deer, but it is important to remember students are sacrificing,” Combs said. “The Students’ Association of Red Deer College is committed to helping students through that process.”
Combs said his organization will try to help students through academic and non-academic appeals to help mitigate issues that may come from the Games.
Red Deer College has developed a plan to help accommodate students displaced by the Games as well as academic pressures they may face.