Giving the old college try has paid off for Red Deer College.
RDC was given the green light to become a degree-granting institution Thursday.
The decision comes a week after the government gave Grande Prairie Regional College approval to pursue becoming a university.
“The day has finally come,” said RDC president Joel Ward.
Ward has lobbied for RDC to obtain polytechnic status since he started at the learning institute – about 10 years ago.
This was college’s third request to the province in the past 25 years.
Related: Waiting for an answer
“Achieving university status is the realization of a 54-year dream for our institution,” said Ward.
“The announcement today acknowledges the growth, and evolution of RDC as a mature academic institution. The significance of this day will resonate in the communities of Central Alberta for generations to come as we serve learners in new and innovative ways.”
Hundreds of community members, faculty, officials and students filled the RDC Arts Centre’s Mainstage to hear the long awaited news.
Kassandra Scholze, Students’ Association of Red Deer College, said students will no longer be forced to uproot their lives to complete their education. They will be able to stay in Central Alberta.
Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said degree completion at RDC will not only help retain the existing population, but also attract new people to Central Alberta strengthening the local economy.
Red Deer College’s designation as a university will be a detailed, multi-year process. Work has already started, which will help speed up the process, said Ward.
“I believe it’s going to take three to five years probably for us to get to the place where we can say we’re doing everything you would expect a good university would be doing,” said Ward.
Ward said the college wants to meet all the criteria before “the light switches and the name changes.”
He said the new name will be a community decision, adding that the college will find an appropriate name at an appropriate time.
The institution will continue to work with the Campus Alberta Quality Council to ensure that all new degree programs meet provincial and national standards for quality.
Premier Rachel Notley said instead of asking why we are not going to do this, the question was, why we can do this.
She said the provincial government knows Red Deer is a growing city – the third largest city in Alberta, it is an economic centre and it makes sense for the city to be able to offer university degree granting.
Notley said the decision will help Central Albertans save money by not having to relocate for post-secondary education.