Guy Pelletier, chair of Red Deer College’s board of governors, said the latest program cuts have nothing to do with the delay in RDC becoming a university. (Advocate file photo.)

RDC’s university transition is delayed, not halted, says official

Latest program cuts based on low enrolment, less government funding

Red Deer College will continue on the path toward becoming a university — despite a delay and the partial suspension of a new applied-degree program, says an official.

Guy Pelletier, chair of the college’s board of governors, doesn’t believe RDC’s university transition will be halted — especially as he maintains it won’t cost the government any more money, while improving learning opportunities in central Alberta.

But Pelletier was told RDC’s change in status will be delayed until after a “systems-wide review” is done this fall on post-secondary institutions in Alberta.

It was announced before measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 created government delays.

“They don’t want to make any major decisions on us, as a university, until sometime in the fall, when the results of the review are known,” he added.

This week, RDC officials announced the performance stream of a new bachelor of applied arts degree program in film, theatre and live entertainment will be “suspended,” even though it only opened to students last fall.

Pelletier said low enrolment is the main reason for this cut — which also included the production side of live entertainment, as part of five program shutdowns announced at RDC. The film production stream is continuing.

Students, alumni express concern over program cut

He noted tough decisions were needed since the college has faced two years of government funding reductions, and anticipates several more decreased grant years to come.

While the latest course suspensions were not linked to the delay in RDC becoming a university, Pelletier said the start dates for new bachelor of education, bachelor of science and bachelor of management programs will likely be affected.

The curriculums for these programs have already been submitted to a provincial review board. Pelletier said the earliest start dates were anticipated to be the fall of 2021 and 2022, but he believes these could be postponed, depending on when the review is completed.

Red Deer College president Peter Nunoda said he understands impacted students “are feeling a deep sense of personal loss and frustration.”

But he added the decision to suspend the two majors in this program was made “to support the long-term, sustainable operations of the college.”

While believing in students’ right to petition, he stated it will not lead to the reinstatement of the program.

Nunoda maintains RDC’s marketing team used diverse approaches to try to recruit students.

While preliminary research indicated reasonable demand for a combined theatre/film and live entertainment program, “many factors influence enrolment,” he said, “including economy, demographics and evolving industry needs.

“It is among these myriad reasons that RDC is seeing lower enrolment than what we expected.”

He feels the college will continue to make various contributions toward arts in the community.

Many other arts opportunities exist for students, including visual arts, animation and visual effects, and film, he added, noting RDC also offers music and dance programming through the school of continuing education and summer camps.

“We anticipate that the resources available within the Arts Centre, such as the costumes…will remain in place for use for these diverse activities, as needed.”

As to the future of the RDC Arts Centre, Nunoda did not commit to lowering the rent to make it more affordable for community groups.

But he said, “RDC will continue to use it for our programming, and it will also continue to be utilized for a diverse range of community performances, events and activities.”

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Red Deer College president Peter Nunoda. (Photo by contributed)

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