More students juggling work, school courses

More students are taking fewer courses over a longer period of time — that is the enrolment trend Red Deer College president Joel Ward is seeing at his institution.

More students are taking fewer courses over a longer period of time — that is the enrolment trend Red Deer College president Joel Ward is seeing at his institution.

Numbers from the 2012-13 school year, examined by the college’s board of governors this week as part of Ward’s annual executive review, showed fewer Central Albertans enrolling in credit programming at the college for a second consecutive year, while there was a huge increase in enrolment in Continuing Education programs.

The numbers showed 600 fewer students in credit programming in 2012-13 compared to 2010-11 and 6,000 fewer course registrations.

But seven per cent of the Central Alberta population aged 18-64 — 12,517 people, up over 4,000 from the year prior — was attending Continuing Education programming at the college. Courses offered through the Continuing Education department include things like an online water well driller course or learning sign language.

Ward said college students more and more are not taking full semester workloads or are taking flexible courses through Continuing Education that better fit their schedules.

Enrolment numbers rebounded this year to over 7,000 from 6,435 for 2012-13. A 20 per cent increase in enrolment in trades education spurred the jump.

“Trades is really the number that impacts enrolment the most. Our numbers show small growth in all of our other programs and trades fluctuated from a high of 4,000 students in 2006 to under 2,500 last year to over 3,200 this year,” said Ward.

This year’s numbers should help the college get closer to its goal of attracting to the institution 50 per cent of all graduating high school students in the region opting to continue their education. Forty-three per cent of such students attended RDC in 2012-13, a low number Ward said is down to the lack of degree options in Red Deer.

“We know that without the university-type programming that students can’t come here even though they may want to if we were to offer that program. If we were a university and offering our own degrees, that number would probably be closer to 70 per cent,” he said.

Board of governors chair Shelley Ralston said she would like to see post-secondary participation rates go up, and believes an increased number of partnerships with school divisions in the region can improve those numbers.

The report also demonstrated a decline in research projects and expenditures in 2012-13. After two years of spending more than $1 million on research at the college, the figure dipped to just below $800,000 in 2012-13, spread across 41 projects.

Ward said agencies giving out research grants tend to favour universities over colleges. At present the college has a grant application out for $1.75 million, but is up against four universities for that funding.

The report shows a near 200 per cent growth over two years in the number of alumni donating to the college, though they donated less in 2012/13. The amount of scholarship and award money available on a per-student basis also increased.

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