Red Deer College will cut costs and pursue lucrative international students as it grapples with a $3.6-million funding cut.
For students, the college’s need to balance the books will mean a tuition increase — likely in the range of the seven per cent allowed by the province when it dropped a freeze on instruction fees last year.
“I think that’s a reasonable assumption,” said RDC president Peter Nunoda on Monday.
To help ease the impact of higher tuition on students from economically challenging backgrounds, the college hopes to boost the number of bursaries and scholarships available.
However, Nunoda did not announce any large-scale staff cuts along the lines of SAIT, which said after the provincial budget came down Thursday that the institution will chop 150 positions and leave another 80 unfilled.
Following the province’s interim budget last November, the University of Calgary announced it was cutting 250 jobs and has not ruled out further cuts in the wake of the recent provincial budget.
“We’re going to look at all of our options,” said Nunoda. “That’s all I can say. Workforce reduction will have to be part of the consideration. But that’s not our first approach here.”
Nunoda said the college is still going through details of the budget, which reduced the college’s core operating grant from just under $49 million to about $45.3 million.
While the college was already deep into its budget planning, the size of the cut — 7.4 per cent — was not expected.
“We’re having to go back to the drawing board a bit and take a look at our strategies.”
Those strategies don’t just mean finding cuts. The college is looking for opportunities to boost revenues as well.
To that end, it has stepped up its marketing toward international students and hopes to attract 500 new students from abroad. Depending on the program, international students generate 3.5 to 4.5 times more revenue than home-grown students.
“We’re looking at all of those additional external revenue generating options to balance the budget. We’ll look at every option that we possibly have available.”
Other opportunities are seen in the college’s continuing education and business development efforts.
“We’re going to be looking to them to generate more revenue through opportunities and partnerships with private enterprises.
“I think being as creative as possible is the approach I think we have to take here.”
Nunoda said he does not want to send a “doom and gloom” message.
“Is this good news? No. But is this something we can overcome collectively? Absolutely.”
Meanwhile, the college continues to work with the province on the transition to Red Deer University. A recently announced government review of all post-secondary education is not expected to delay that transition, said Nunoda.