Advanced Education Minister tours RDC

Alberta’s Minister of Advanced Education paid a visit to RDC on Monday as part of his provincial tour of post-secondary institutions.

Demetrios Nicolaides says his tour is the best way to get a strong understanding of what makes an institution unique and what its immediate priorities are.

“I find that once you’re able to be on campus, interact with faculty and students and senior administration, you really get that good sense of what makes an institution special,” explains Nicolaides.

“I know that RDC has such a strong connection to the community and offering a wide range of programming that’s very important to local community, and I think that’s one of the things that really makes it quite unique.”

Whether post-secondary students in Alberta can expect to see a lifting of tuition caps or funding cuts to universities following next month’s provincial budget, Nicolaides says the recent MacKinnon Report will help guide those decisions.

“We have the MacKinnon Panel Report and the details from that which drew a lot of attention to post-secondary and have some very specific recommendations as they relate to post-secondary, recognizing that we have one of the most expensive post-secondary jurisdictions in the country,” he exclaims. “So we’re currently in the process of trying to figure out what the next steps would entail. The MacKinnon Panel does talk about tuition, it does talk about other government funding, so we’re in the process of trying to figure out what next steps will be as we prepare to present our budget on October 24.”

In the meantime, Nicolaides says post-secondary institutions in Alberta can continue their operations as per usual.

“We have made a very clear commitment to Albertans to get to a balanced budget by the end of four years,” he explains. “So my message today and to all institutions is to continue to be mindful of upcoming priorities and do so with a mindset of being as fiscally responsible as possible.”

Nicolaides said the province is making investments, including a new high school scholarship, to help grapple with high youth unemployment and a growing retirement of people in the skilled trades.

“We’ve also announced $10 million funding to Women Building Futures, an organization that helps more women enter the skilled trades. And just last week, we announced the creation of Skills for Jobs Task Force to help address the challenge of high youth unemployment and growing retirements in the skilled trades. So I would encourage them as they’re looking at their future plans, to give all avenues important consideration.”

With a transition to university status well underway and currently the top priority for RDC, Nicolaides didn’t indicate next month’s budget would have any impact on that work already in progress.

“Things are on track as normal,” assures Nicolaides. “One of the important considerations, though, that we have to be very mindful of which was highlighted in the MacKinnon Report, is that there doesn’t appear to be a strong sense of strategic direction and vision for the post-secondary system in the province. That’s one of the things that I’m quite interested in addressing,” admits Nicolaides.

“We need to take a closer look at the future dynamic of post-secondary in the province and how all our institutions, including Red Deer College, fit into that broader vision.”