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RDC readies for tough provincial budget: Ward

Red Deer College will continue with ambitious plans over the next year despite some concerns about the provincial government’s upcoming budget, president Joel Ward said on Friday.

Ward, who presented the board’s 2011-12 annual college report in front of a luncheon crowd of about 200 people, said the college will not sit back just because the ruling Progressive Conservatives are expected to unveil a tough budget on March 7.

“I would be lying to you if I didn’t say we’re a little worried about the budget and what the impacts that might have, but we’re a very entrepreneurial institution,” Ward told news reporters later. “We look at ways for generating revenue and pushing our agenda forward.”

Ward watched Premier Alison Redford’s televised address on Thursday night, during which she said that depressed prices for Alberta’s bitumen had taken a $1-billion bite out of this year’s budget, and $6 billion next year’s budget.

“We have contingency plans, we’re ready for whatever happens,” said Ward. “We’d love to have our grant increase of two per cent, which we had planned for and the government had talked to us about two years ago, but if we have to play a role in the budget and balancing the budget, we’ll do our part.”

The college will mark its 50th anniversary next year and over the next five decades the board has set its sights on increasing its growth. To achieve this, it will develop new partnerships and initiatives.

As part of its ambitious plans over the next year, the college will keep abreast of a Red Deer community bid to host the 2019 Canada Winter Games. The college has given initial backing.

“We think our participation in the bid will speed up our multi-plex and residences (projects),” said Ward.

He expects the bid, if successful, could help the college get the multi-plex done five years earlier.

The college aims to make the Donald School of Business downtown campus a premiere business school, connecting learners to businesses in the region through applied learning experiences.

The college’s recent acquisition of City Centre Stage will result in more community theatre, art shows, conferences, and smaller film festivals, while giving students great applied learning experiences.

“We will be announcing a full plan to our community soon,” said Ward.

The college wants to become known for attracting talent, not sending it away, he added.

It banks on having a third of its programs in trades and technologies, a third in diplomas and a third in degrees.

Although the strategic plan up to 2017 doesn’t specifically address turning the college into a university by having degree-granting status, Ward said they have presented a “very powerful model” to provincial government officials.

“The focus we’ve had with the government is: let’s grant our own degrees and take better control of that third of our business,” said Ward. “The board presented a very powerful argument and now we await the province’s response. But we believe there will be some opportunities for this institution in the very near future.”

Board vice-chair Dale Russell said they’re not looking to grant all the degrees.

“But we know there’s still more that we can do and that’s what we’re pushing for,” said Russell. “It’s to keep the people here, so they don’t have to go away.”

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