Updated: New RDC president ready for belt tightening

Peter Nunoda started his new job on Tuesday and takes over from Joel Ward

Red Deer College’s new president says he is ready should the province lean on post-secondary schools to pay more of their own way.

Peter Nunoda, who was president of Vancouver Community College for nearly six years before coming to Red Deer, says he got plenty of experience dealing with tight budgets in B.C.

“So, the notion of relying less on government grants and generating more of our external revenue is something very familiar to me,” said Nunoda on Wednesday at a news conference.

“That’s certainly an approach that we will take.”

Fears that October’s provincial budget could bring significant cutbacks were fanned this week when a panel ordered by Premier Jason Kenney to look into the province’s finances concluded Alberta routinely overspends on the services it delivers.

The panel made more than two dozen cost-saving recommendations, including lifting a freeze on post-secondary tuitions and encouraging colleges and universities to rely less on government grants and more on tuitions and other revenue sources.

If the college is required to find more ways to cover its costs as it develops, there are lots of options available, said Nunoda.

“Certainly, I don’t think our first step (will be going to) government and saying we need significant funding to make this happen. I think it’s something that we’re capable of doing on our own.

“But obviously, we want to work very closely with government and make sure they understand exactly the steps that we’re taking.”

Many B.C. institutions responded to financial challenges by seeking out more international students, he said.

“Some of them have taken them to extremes, but I would never counsel that for a college like Red Deer or the central Alberta region.

“But I think it’s an opportunity that is available to us, and I think it’s something that we have to investigate more closely.

“Certainly over the next year, we’ll be moving in that direction, but doing it in a very judicious fashion.”

Nunoda also sees opportunities for forging more community partnerships.

“There are partnerships in the community I think we can leverage better. I think, for me, one of the central ideas is the college should be a pillar of the community.

“We have to be working in close proximity with the business people, with small and medium enterprises in the town and looking for ways we can create mutually beneficial relationships.”

Nunoda does not believe provincial financial tinkering will slow the college’s transformation, already well underway, into a university.

“I’m very confident that we can achieve this goal. I’m not going to say in short order — but in a timely fashion.

“In terms of the stucture of the institution, in terms of the positions that we have and the programs we offer, we’re in very good shape at this point in time.”

Students’ Association of Red Deer College president Brittany Lausen said students don’t look forward to paying more in tuition.

“However, tuition has been frozen for quite some time, and as long as government respects the cap that was implemented in Bill 19, then students are able to financially prepare for the future.”

Bill 19 caps average tuition increases to the consumer price index.

Red Deer Coun. Vesna Higham hopes that any government education budget tinkering will not have an impact on the college’s transformation into a university.

Lethbridge has had a university since 1967 and Red Deer deserves to have a degree-granting institution to give young people an opportunity to remain in the community, she said.

Higham is also concerned that more burden will be put on students through tuition increases. Many will not be able to afford higher costs, she said.

— With files from Lana Michelin, Red Deer Advocate


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