An opportunity, or else

Advanced Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk has sent a heavy-handed, non-negotiable edict to the province’s 26 colleges and universities. It came like a thunderbolt out of the Tory blue — and it will precipitously change the way all of them operate.

Advanced Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk has sent a heavy-handed, non-negotiable edict to the province’s 26 colleges and universities. It came like a thunderbolt out of the Tory blue — and it will precipitously change the way all of them operate.

It will certainly change the way students make choices for post-secondary education.

And I find myself in agreement with a good part of what’s being done. Or at least, the stated intent.

As university commentators on news reports and radio talk shows have already said: the devil is in the details. Stating government intentions in a five-page letter to all college and university boards is one thing; the actual work is in the follow-up, which we have yet to see.

But if the Red Deer College board of governors can finesse its way through what will be two weeks of chaotic discussion, and if the blunt force of government handles this right, families in Central Alberta can come out big winners in Lukaszuk’s proposed revamp.

“It’s time we rethink how we deliver education. This will not be mandated from my office. It will be collaborative,” said the minister. Or else.

“What we arrive at is negotiable but the fact is there will be change and change has to occur — and that is not negotiable.” The boards of governors have until April 11 to draft a reply to Lukaszuk’s “letter of expectation.” For “expectation” insert “the reason we give you all this money.”

Here’s one expectation: The province wants to establish a “Campus Alberta,” wherein students in any academic program anywhere in Alberta will have full transferability to the same programs in other institutions.

That could be a godsend to Red Deer College — if things are handled right.

Why have we been fighting for years for Red Deer College to have full university status? It’s because not having one means that any student in our area who wants a degree has to leave our region to get one.

The college, as well as Red Deer taxpayers and business groups, have been complaining for years that once we send our students away for higher education, they seldom come back. We’ve been paying for that “brain drain” for decades.

If students in Red Deer can get the first three years of an academic program here, and finish their final year at a university that would grant them their degree, they and their families would save tens of thousands of dollars.

And it becomes more likely the student would begin career planning here, rather than in Edmonton or Calgary.

So the universities must first review all their programs, to see if they are really “in demand by employers and students.” More, Lukaszuk’s letter tells them to “enhance your work with business and industry to maximize the responsiveness to community and regional economic and social needs.”

All of this is right up RDC’s alley. It’s been the college’s bread and butter for a long time.

What’s missing is the completion of the college’s mission to offer a full menu of both academic and trade options. RDC has transfer contracts for a limited number of programs with universities, but Lukaszuk wants more.

So do we. For instance, a student could begin a bachelor of science program here in Red Deer, and study here three years, living at home. Upon completing the program’s final year at the University of Alberta with full transferability of courses, that student would become eligible to enter the U of A’s masters-level program in occupational therapy. Now there’s a program with a future.

That’s just one example. There could be a dozen others.

The U of A has responded, saying they don’t want to be a cookie-cutter institution. But they have been increasing their institutional emphasis on post-graduate programs and research (at the cost of excellence in undergrad instruction) for years.

Smaller regional colleges like RDC can make better cookies, cheaper — and in the places that employers and taxpayers want them.

Sit down quickly with the devil and work out the details. Or else.

Greg Neiman is a retired Advocate editor. Follow his blog at readersadvocate.blogspot.ca or email greg.neiman.blog@gmail.com.

Just Posted

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Red Deer down to 119 active COVID-19 cases

Province identifies 179 new cases Saturday

Red Deer Emergency Services responded to an explosion at a duplex on Rupert Crescent Saturday morning. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Firefighters respond to explosion in Red Deer early Saturday morning

There was an explosion at a Red Deer duplex early Saturday morning.… Continue reading

Terry Betts, of Kananaskis, looks at the vehicle he was hoping to sell during the Quick Times Red Deer Swap Meet in the Westerner Park parking lot Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Quick Times Red Deer Swap Meet held outdoors

A big automotive swap meet was held outdoors this year in Red… Continue reading

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is set to re-open on July 2. (File Photo)
Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum to reopen Monday

The Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum will reopen for visitors… Continue reading

Huzaifa (left), Saif (middle) and Zoya (right) were among the 60 or so Red Deerians who participated in a vigil for the victims of a recent terrorist attack that killed four people in London Ont. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Red Deer vigil honours victims of London, Ont. terrorist attack

About 60 people gathered at the corner of 49 Ave. and 50… Continue reading

A man wears a face mask as he walks by a sign for a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, May 16, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canada paid a premium to get doses from Pfizer earlier than planned

OTTAWA — Canada paid a premium to get more than 250,000 doses… Continue reading

The Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., is shown in this 1930 handout photo. HO — Deschatelets-NDC Archives
Calls grow for Ottawa to review settlement decisions for residential school survivors

Lawyer Teri Lynn Bougie still cries when she talks about the final… Continue reading

Syringes are readied at a COVID-19 mobile vaccination clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, Friday, April 30, 2021 in Montreal. Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for Canada to donate some of its doses to other countries or international aid organizations and in at least three cases, for the doses to be resold.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada’s vaccine contracts allow for doses to be donated, in some cases resold

OTTAWA — Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for… Continue reading

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, responds to the report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Vancouver, on Monday June 3, 2019. As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Two sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

VANCOUVER — As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after… Continue reading

A woman sits and weeps at the scene of Sunday's hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Four members of a family in London, Ont., are set to be buried today. The public has been invited to help celebrate the lives of Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins
Funeral to be held today for London family killed in attack

LONDON, Ont. — Four members of a Muslim family killed in what… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden listen to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliver opening remarks at a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, United Kingdom Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau to discuss foreign policy with G7 leaders at second day of summit meeting

CARBIS BAY, CORNWALL, ENGLAND — Foreign policy is on the agenda for… Continue reading

Multivitamins are shown on the packaging line at the Pfizer plant in Montreal, Thursday, July 12, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canadian drug companies want new pricing regs delayed again until after pandemic

OTTAWA — Almost three dozen Canadian pharmaceutical companies made a direct appeal… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — The massive $70 million dollar Lotto Max jackpot remained unclaimed… Continue reading

Most Read