OLDS — Red Deer and Olds colleges renewed their partnership to provide rural Central Albertans with access to post-secondary education in small communities across the region.
Six years ago Campus Alberta Central (CAC) was formed by Red Deer College and Olds College and on Tuesday they signed a renewal of their joint venture agreement.
In 2016-17, a total of 18 post-secondary programs will be available online or in classes at learning sites in 21 communities across Central Alberta.
Joel Ward, Red Deer College president and CAC board chair, said discussion has also begun to expand CAC access to Ponoka, Wetaskiwin and the four First Nations at Maskwacis.
He said a significant learning site in terms of size and scope could be developed in Ponoka to serve the area.
“We’ve been approached by the mayor of Ponoka and they’re looking at creating an education learning centre to house a number of different things in Ponoka,” said Ward at an event to sign the venture agreement at Olds College on Tuesday.
He said an announcement on the expansion could come this year. Red Deer College will also continue to push for polytechnic university status.
“We want to add that last category of credential to Central Albertans throughout the region as well. We believe we’ve demonstrated over six years our ability to reach out to Central Alberta and to let the government know we have the expertise and ability to offer those kinds of programming throughout Central Alberta,” Ward said.
Jason Dewling, vice president of academics and research at Olds College, said the colleges are working with the communities to find out what kind of local programs they want from Olds and Red Deer.
“There is very little overlap between the institutions. It allows us to have a non-competitive partnership where we can maximize each other’s strengths,” Dewling said.
Minister of Advanced Education Marlin Schmidt said CAC was built on three principles — access, innovation and collaboration — and it’s doing a tremendous job of meeting the needs of Central Alberta students.
“In a rapidly changing global economy, one of greatest assets is our colleges and universities. Now more than ever, they’re the bridge to making our economy more diversified and resilient. By working together we can continue to keep post-secondary education more accessible and affordable for rural students in Central Alberta,” Schmidt said.
Student Katelyn Hudgeon said she has been able to study for a career in health care in the town where she was born, raised and still lives thanks to CAC.
“I don’t have to leave and go to Red Deer or Calgary. I get to do it through Red Deer College in Stettler,” said Hudgeon, 26, who is earning a nursing diploma.
She agreed that CAC has been affordable as well as convenient. Instructors come to Stettler where classes are small so there is a lot of one-on-one discussion with instructors which would not be possible at a big institution.
For more information visit campusalbertacentral.com.