WAITING GAME - Red Deer College President Joel Ward, seen here unveiling last year’s Notebook Magazine, is optimistic that the institution will be approved for degree-granting status early this year. Todd Colin Vaughan/Lacombe Express

President Joel Ward optimistic RDC will receive degree-granting status soon

Province currently debating the issue, but has assured Ward it’s on the agenda.

Red Deer College is continuing to patiently wait to hear back from the Province of Alberta regarding the status of their hopes to begin degree granting.

The Minister of Advanced Education Marlin Schmidt had previously made his recommendation to the Province regarding degree-granting at RDC and gave December as a preliminary timeline for an answer.

With that timeline now lapsed, President of Red Deer College Joel Ward is now thinking mid-February.

“He did call and say, ‘We are getting close. We just have a little more work to do. Be patient’. So I would expect an answer probably in February,” Ward said.

The Province is currently debating the issue, but has assured Ward the issue is on the agenda.

Degree-granting for RDC is key to keeping students in Central Alberta, according to Ward. Over 56% of Alberta post-secondary students graduate with a four-year degree, something the college cannot currently offer outside of nursing and education, which is offered through the University of Alberta, and business which is offered through Mount Royal University.

“Degree-granting status is really important to us because we are shut out of that market,” Ward said.

“It is similar to being a retail store with four products, but you are only allowed to sell three when most of your customers want the fourth one. That is a challenge.”

If approved, RDC will begin immediately turning their current degrees through other institutions into their own. The school will also work to introduce several more programs in three to five years.

“We already have two new degrees that are before government for approval. We think those will be the first two new ones,” he said.

He added degree-granting could potentially add 50% more students to the institution in three to seven years, which can now be more easily accommodating due to the several capital projects under construction including the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre and the new residence — both of which are scheduled to open in 2018.

Ward added the project will add critical growth to Central Alberta in a variety of ways.

“Our economic, cultural and social growth is impaired due to our inability to provide the educational opportunities that students need in Central Alberta,” he said. “We have made our case; we have the support of all of Central Alberta including students, business and industry, mayors and councils across Central Alberta and the school boards all support us.”

He added RDC is preparing for the best result in February.

“The government has listened and they will have a decision. I’m optimistic it will be a good one, but I really don’t know what the answer will be,” he said.

todd.vaughan@reddeerexpress.com

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