Enrolment at Red Deer College is up 10 per cent this year.
There are 7,800 students this year, compared with 7,100 last year — an increase of 700 students.
Jim Madder, executive vice-president academic at RDC, said while trade applications have levelled off, almost all of the other programs are up and up quite dramatically.
He said the programs that are especially drawing students include adult upgrading, with people coming back to upgrade their skills; and open studies, with some people needing to upgrade their marks before moving on to university.
Madder said all of the classrooms at the college are being used and are full from 8 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. each day as a result of the influx of students.
He said while the college is trying to ensure RDC has all the spaces and faculty needed to serve the students, the increase in students is positive because it means the college can offer a greater diversity of programs.
Although more students are heading to college, they are doing so in a less financially stable situation. In August, employment was down nearly 10 per cent among students between age 15 to 24 in Canada compared with August 2008 — the fastest year-over-year rate of decline for August since 1983 — according to Statistics Canada.
RDC Students’ Association president Steven Kwasny said student unemployment was a huge issue during the summer, making it difficult for students to find the money they need to go back to school. He said the Alberta Heritage Scholarship Fund has gone down and there has been less money going around for post-secondary schools provincially.
“It’s like a pie. The pie is getting smaller, but more people are asking for pieces of it,” Kwasny said. “So it’s getting a little bit rougher that way.”
Kwasny is involved with a provincial lobby group encouraging the provincial government not to cut funding to post-secondary institutions and he has been consulting with the student funding and awards office at RDC, making sure students have loans, grants and scholarships available.
With the increasing student numbers and demands, the new RDC president has plans to continue to expand RDC.
Joel Ward took over as RDC president at the beginning of the month, after leaving his post as president at Assiniboine College in Brandon.
Ward said in particular the college has a new regional mandate to deliver programming to smaller communities in Central Alberta.
“I’m a visionary. I’m a builder. I like to look for opportunities to make our student experience exceptional and everything that I can do, and our team can do, to do that is what I’m going to pursue as the new president of Red Deer College,” Ward said.