Red Deer, Grande Prairie colleges becoming Alberta’s newest polytechnic institutions

Fairview campus of the Grande Prairie Regional College, April 4, 2016.

A second Alberta college is making the change to becoming a polytechnic institution.

One week after Red Deer College announced it will be the province’s newest polytechnic, Grande Prairie Regional College (GPRC) did the same on Tuesday.

Polytechnic status allows the colleges to offer apprenticeship education, as well as polytechnic-focused degree, diploma and certificate programs.

“Polytechnic status will empower GPRC to expand our program offerings,” GPRC acting president and CEO Glenn Feltham said.

“It positions our institution to meet the labour market needs for highly skilled graduates, and to support the broader aspirations of northwestern Alberta.”

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GPRC and Red Deer College leaders said the switch to becoming a polytechnic will serve their regions best.

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“This is a tremendous opportunity for our students, partners, industry and our community. We are very excited about the potential impact of expanded academic offerings and the ability to provide continuous learning options so that people learn and stay in our region,” GPRC board chair Bridget Hennigar said in a statement.

“The breadth of programs and credentials we will offer as a polytechnic institution are exactly what this region needs,” Red Deer College president Peter Nunoda said in a statement.

“By offering students applied and work-integrated learning across all programs — from trades to our own degrees — we will assist graduates to achieve their goals and be highly employable within the ever-changing needs of the labour market. This is the ideal future for our institution.”

The moves also align with the province’s Alberta 2030: Building Skills for Jobs 10-year strategy, which aims to develop a skilled and competitive workforce through post-secondary education.

“This move will ensure students will be able to meet their educational needs in their own backyard. Empowering students with job-ready skills helps grow the community, and attracts new investment to the province,” said Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides, regarding GPRC’s announcement.

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In a statement, NDP advanced education critic David Eggen said while he is glad to see more work being done to provide credentials and research through Alberta 2030, he was also critical of Nicolaides’ and the Alberta government’s overall post-secondary strategy, citing the provincial budget that reduced spending for post-secondary institutions from $5.47 billion in 2019-20 down to $5.04 billion in 2021-22.

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“Minister Nicolaides has already mismanaged several important issues for post-secondary, such as removing university status for Red Deer College,” Eggen said. “He also blew $3.7 million on the McKinsey Report which yielded results that staff and students were very vocal did not align with what is needed for our schools’ future. I worry that Alberta 2030 is going to be a massive dump of salt into the wound that the UCP has inflicted on Alberta’s post-secondary system.”

The NDP has previously called for the UCP government to reverse post-secondary cuts, freeze tuition rates during the pandemic, stop increases to student loan interest rates and end the move of performance-based funding.

GPRC and Red Deer College are both expected to undergo a name change in the coming months as a result of the polytechnic designation.

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