RDC budget reflects expansion, increasing costs

New construction accommodates larger enrolments and increasing costs expected at Red Deer College

New construction accommodates larger enrolments and increasing costs expected at Red Deer College.

The college’s board of directors approved an $88.5 million budget for the upcoming school year, with provisions for significant increases in the years to come.

Projected costs include growth and development in a variety of programs along with increases in the total number of students taking some of them, says President Ron Woodward.

Following what will be his last regular board meeting before his retirement, scheduled for the end of the 2008-09, Woodward said the college is now ready to officially open its new building, the first part of a two-phased expansion of its facilities.

The board has based the budget portion of its business plan on a six per cent increase in the coming year, followed by increases of two per cent in each of the following three years, said Woodward.

While the board has set a balanced budget for the coming year, it is planning on deficits in each of the following years, with revenue for 2012-13 forecast at $102.8 million while costs are expected to reach $106.35.

“What happens with our budget is, the spikes that you see, in part, are driven by construction costs,” said Woodward.

Just completed is what the college is now calling the Four Centres building, which will house trades and technology, applied research, visual arts and corporate training.

“Now, our focus is the health education centre and the sport and wellness centre.

“Increases in student enrolment are driven by . . . increased capacity in terms of programs (and) then in addition we have some new programs that, over the next few years, will come on stream.”

Provincial grants, which make up just under 60 per cent of the college’s total revenue, are tied to Alberta’s cost-of-living increases, said Woodward. The provincial grant increased by six per cent increase this year, but the board is estimating increases at two per cent for the three following years.

Enrolment targets, expressed as full-time equivalents, are based on just under 3,700 students in 2008-09, jumping to 4,400 in four years with the biggest increase in the 2010-11.

While students will bear some of the increases through their tuition fees, the share they pay of the college’s total operating costs has lessened somewhat from five years ago, when tuition fees paid 25 to 30 per cent of the actual cost of an year in school.

Students now pay between 18 and 20 per cent, said Woodward.

Erin Konsmo, student representative on the Board of Directors, said tuition fees are not as big a worry as the actual costs of living in Red Deer.

Even though the local economy has weakened significantly, the price food and accommodations remain high with students spending an average of $7,000 in living expenses during their months in college, said Konsmo.

She and Woodward, along with fellow director John Madder, received national recognition recently at the Association of Canadian Community Colleges annual conference in Charlottetown, PEI.

Woodward received the Presidents’ Network distinguished service award, while Konsmo and Madder each earned leadership awards.