RDC to slash programs, jobs

Red Deer College faculty, staff and students are bracing for an uncertain future.

Red Deer College faculty, staff and students are bracing for an uncertain future.

On Tuesday, RDC hosted an open budget forum to allow faculty and staff to ask questions about the pending changes that are needed to cover a $4.5 million deficit on Tuesday.

Post-secondary budgets were slashed by 7.3 per cent across the board as part of this year’s provincial budget. For RDC that translates to a $4.5 million reduction from its estimated $92 million budget for 2012/2013.

Ken Heather, the president of the Faculty Association of Red Deer College, said the college confirmed what has been looming in the distance — programs will be eliminated and jobs will be lost.

“They are not saying specifically where or who yet,” said Heather. “They are going to look at every program and staff. They are looking at credit and non-credit. They are looking at support services. It’s across the board. When you have to find that kind of money you have to look at everything.”

There are roughly 325 part-time and full-time faculty members at the college. Heather said there’s a general feeling that most of the decisions are close to or have already been made.

Heather said there are questions why other post-secondary institutions have already announced cost-saving plans when RDC is still working through the details.

Anne Marie Watson, who has worked in the library for 13 years, said she has been through the program cuts and job losses before but never this drastic. Watson said they knew the cuts were coming but it’s another thing to hear there will be job cuts and eliminated programs officially.

“In one way we knew it but to hear it starkly said is unsettling,” said Watson. “But that’s the reality of the budget given by the Alberta government.”

Watson said she got the sense the college is doing its best and that its hands are tied.

Questions were raised about the collaborative programs with other post-secondary institutions that would be affected if the university made changes.

“We did get a pretty good reassurance that they have been in contact with the other intuitions and they seemed to say things will continue,” said Heather.

“I think the budget isn’t going to change. They talked to the province. Everybody knows the shortfall is the shortfall.”

RDC president Joel Ward was unavailable for comment on Tuesday. Heather said faculty has asked the president some pointed questions about generating revenue and cost cuttings.

“We are hoping those questions will be answered,” said Heather. “Undoubtably there will be more said when decisions are made.”

Heather said at the end of the day if you cut programs, cut services it is going to impact students. You can have services that may not be available.

“When we come back in the fall, I think you will see a drastic change of what Red Deer College is offering,” said Heather.

Some institutions have halted applications but RDC is continuing to accept applications.

Students’ Association of Red Deer College president Eric Peppinck said students are concerned about the potential programs that are on the chopping board. While Peppinck said the uncertainty has been frustrating, he is happy the college is taking its time to announce the plan.

“I think the college is doing a good job of causing a stink without causing widespread panic,” said Peppinck. “It’s really hard to see the impact until you have to go pay your tuition next year or you try to find something that is not there next year.”

The college is expected to announce its plans in early May. Ward hosts open forums at least once or twice a year around budget time.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com