Red Deer College enters the final leg of long road towards getting degree-granting status

Administrators hope for good news from the province next month

Visitors are arriving at Red Deer College next week to help decide the future of the institution.

Adjudicators from across Canada will tour the facility, interview staff, students and administrators, and assess proposed curriculums to determine if the college is ready to deliver new applied-degree programs in performing arts and animation.

If the four-year programs are approved by Alberta’s Minister of Advance Education, they could be the first of many that offer degrees at RDC — which has been seeking degree-granting status from the province for about three decades.

RDC president Joel Ward told members of the Board of Governors on Thursday that adjudicators from industry and other educational institutions will be carrying out one of the final stages of the process. “If these programs are approved, it sets us up for degree-granting very nicely,” he added.

College administrators, who received much community support in this latest push for degree-granting, are expecting an answer from the ministry by Jan. 31.

Board members were told at their monthly meeting that RDC is dealing with a significant loss of apprenticeship spots. Because Alberta’s economic downturn and increasing automation, Ward said Alberta Advanced Education cut the number of apprenticeships at the college to about 2,500 from a previous 3,500.

The number is expected to drop even further, affecting college enrolment and revenues more deeply, and leading to more instructor layoffs, said Ward.

About 20 per cent of RDC’s student population are now in trades. But RDC administrators hope to start more in-demand new trades programs over the next three years — such as the installation of solar power and geothermal equipment.

Meanwhile, studies have shown that 53 per cent of students planning to get post-secondary education want a degree, rather than a certificate, apprenticeship or diploma. “Degrees are in greatest demand,” said Board of Governors Chair Morris Flewwelling, who’s hoping for good news in January.

Computer fraud was also discussed. Red Deer College assessed its own cyber security program after a fraudster ripped-off Grant MacEwan University of $11.8 million in August. A staffer failed to call one of its vendors to verify whether emails requesting a change in banking information were legitimate.

Ward assured the board that RDC’s system requires more levels of approval. Keeping on top of the latest cyber scam is a “full-time job, but we’re doing the best we can to mitigate it.”

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