A fourth year of a tuition freeze didn’t pour ice over Red Deer College president Joel Ward’s enthusiasm for the institution’s pending university status.
In Thursday’s Throne Speech, the Alberta government talked about the college’s path to degree granting status, but also committed to a fourth year of a tuition freeze.
But Ward wasn’t too upset by it, saying the NDP government has an unparalleled commitment to post-secondary education.
“I’ve dealt with governments over the years of all stripes,” said Ward. “These guys, in three years, they have been very good to post-secondary education.
“They were the first government that had the courage to make the decision to allow us to become a university. Other governments turned us down every single time.”
Although mentioned in the Throne Speech, the announcement that the college will become a university came a week prior. Still, both Red Deer City Manager Craig Curtis and Red Deer And District Chamber of Commerce President Robin Bobocel called it a major economic win for the city.
Ward was still bolstered by the decision that will have long-term impacts, saying it could double the institution’s enrolment in 10 years.
However, post-secondary funding typically comes from three sources: government grants, ancillary fees and tuition.
“The reality is, we’ve known about this for years,” said Ward. “The model is challenged because our revenue sources are restricted and two of them are beyond our control. Almost 80 per cent of our revenue is beyond our control to influence.”
Ward said tuition tends to be around 24 per cent of our revenue, grants around 53 per cent and ancillary fees ranging from 20 to 25 per cent of RDC’s revenue.
“We continue to balance our budget, we continue to show small surpluses every year, we continue to build and expand,” said Ward. “At some point it’s going to come back and say ‘what do we need to do now to have our revenue match our expenses.’ That will be the challenge in the very near future.
“We’ll be OK I think for a couple more years.”
Despite the freeze, Ward said the government backfilled the college. They gave the college as much money as they lost from the tuition freeze. Though, Ward said they can’t expect that every year.