Red Deer College’s request for university status was given the green light in 2018.
On a fine day in March that year, the college’s Arts Centre’s Mainstage was packed with community leaders and advocates for the long-awaited news that the province (NDP government at the time) had approved the transition to becoming a university.
Fast forward three years, the approval is still a question.
Although, the government isn’t making this black and white yet, all the grey signs paint a gloomy picture for those who want to see a university in Red Deer.
Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan is hinting at a polytechnic institution by comparing Red Deer College to NAIT and SAIT.
“Red Deer College is not like the University of Alberta, Calgary or Lethbridge.”
“For example, those traditional universities do not provide trades and technologies education opportunities.”
It seems as if the MLA and the UCP government are softening a blow that’s coming for central Albertans. These comments are preparing central Albertans to not expect university status.
In an email statement, the province recently said, “it’s considering all options.
“It is important to note that Red Deer College can offer degrees without becoming a university,” reads the statement.
That is a setback for central Albertans, especially since the community has been advocating for a university for the region for years.
Granted a polytechnic still gives the college the ability to offer degrees, but that’s not what was promised to central Albertans.
In 2019, even a name was chosen: Red Deer University.
Time, effort and dollars have been spent so RDC can become RDU – not a polytechnic.
University status keeps young central Albertans in our community, retaining those who may otherwise end up leaving for better education opportunities elsewhere. Not everyone who leaves comes back.
A university town also helps the local economy, as students from other parts would consider coming to Red Deer to get their post-secondary education.
That local growth is important any given year, but especially now, with the state of the energy sector, and the ongoing COVID pandemic and its aftermath.
A university town also offers cultural diversity, a boost for restaurants and entertainment venues and a thriving rental market.
During the same summer when Red Deer University was announced as the new name for the college, Red Deer lost its third largest city in Alberta title to Lethbridge.
Stephan may believe RDC isn’t like Lethbridge University but Red Deer is very much like Lethbridge and that city has a college and a university.
College president Peter Nunoda recently said the anticipated transition time for RDC was between three to five years and the college is still within that time frame.
“RDC looks forward to collaborating with the Ministry of Advanced Education and all post-secondary partners to implement the final recommendations from the Alberta 2030 post-secondary system review,” said Nunoda.
That provincewide review to look at how the post-secondary system is meeting current and future needs is underway.
More details are expected from the college on Friday afternoon.
Mamta Lulla is acting editor at the Red Deer Advocate.