Thursday, 05 November 2015 04:49

College likes provincial budget; rural areas should benefit

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The Rachel Notley government’s first budget that was unveiled Oct. 27 received mixed reviews.

One group which gave a stamp of approval was the Medicine Hat College. They have a lot of plans for it, much of which should benefit those outside of the borders of Medicine Hat.
Wayne Resch, vice-president administration and finance for the college, says they were given the heads up in the summer, they might be receiving some extra funding.
“We are very grateful to the province. They actually communicated this to us back in July. When the budget was released to us this week, it was really good news that they stayed the course and did what they said they were going to do,” explains Resch who says they received about million dollars more than what the original budget indicated.
“We’ve got a lot of areas of the institution working together on this and we’ll need to be talking to VP academic about this because that’s where the programming delivery falls, but we want to be able to make sure we give the instructors and the programming the ability and from the IT perspective, we want to remove any barriers.”
While there are no 2015 numbers available but to give that extra million some perspective according to the June 30, 2014 Consolidated Financial Statements, the Government of Alberta grants provided turned into an actual balance of $35,796,764.
Resch says that number is all of their grant revenue including some other funding. However, this budget has about a million dollars over and above at their disposal what they were originally thought prior to the May 5 election. Resch agreed with the analogy that it is in a way “found money.” He notes since they were told of this probable increase they have been working on ways to spend it wisely.
In a release, the college stated there are five areas which are of prime focus: People: Supporting access to and affordability of campus wellness programs; Instructional Support: Upkeep and renewal of key instructional assets for example the simulation mannequins in the Division of Science and Health; IT Infrastructure: Ensuring the college keeps pace with demand for wireless and online activity; Facility renewal: Investing to ensure facilities are well maintained, and prepared for future growth. Innovation: Renewed focus on entrepreneurship and partnerships with the private sector.
Resch notes this should be of benefit for rural areas as they know they have to try and reach as many people as possible.
“It’s good on the government for recognizing students as a priority,” Resch explains. “With that, they’ve provided this extra funding, so the fact that we’ve known about this funding since July to go through a very consultative process internally to come up with those (aforementioned) five areas, in regards on how we want to spend this additional million dollars, a couple of those really relate to that rural connection of serving our region. Part of this additional funding will be invested into some IT infrastructure. One of the things we’re finding when we’re starting a lot of conversations about wanting to do things differently with this institution i.e. getting away from this government funding, we find we need to have better infrastructure from an IT perspective in order to better offer different options in delivering programming.
“One of the ways we’re doing that is building better better infrastructure so that we can better serve our region with programming not necessarily in Medicine Hat (such as satellite courses). Do we know what that exactly looks like quite yet? (Not quite), but we have money dedicated to investing in that so we can start looking at serving the region differently.”
One of those areas in southeast Alberta is Brooks, where one of the satellite campuses is located. Currently, the Brooks campus hosts a wide range of courses, much like the main campus in Medicine Hat and has ESL training, continuing studies etc. but is known especially for its Nurse Diploma Program as well its trades programs such as welding, carpentry and electrician.
Resch says they want to continue to improve what is offered for the students there and they are part of this funding allocation review.
“The Medicine Hat College received an additional one million dollars, so Brooks being a part of that will reap the same benefits as any other department or any other area for that additional funding,” explains Resch.
“Being that one of the areas though that I referred to for the IT infrastructure and are trying to serve our region differently than in the past, removing that barrier of infrastructure (issues), there will be hopefully in the future, better ways of getting that information out there.”
College officials realizes the importance of the area outside of Medicine Hat and Resch says administrators and staff continue to build partnerships in those areas.
Who the college wants to reach doesn't stop at the City of Medicine Hat boundary line. Resch says it takes a lot of work and constant communication.
“That’s never easy. It goes back to wanting to make sure the institution continues to be relevant and by being relevant, we need to know what our stakeholders are thinking and these people you’re referring to are considered a stakeholders,” he explains. “One of these other things we are doing with this additional funding, we are investing some resources and wanting to enhance our regional stewardship both for the region and in Medicine Hat to continue to reach out to that group of people you are talking to, because they are important. Those stakeholders, we are staying in touch with them and it helps the college stay relevant. It helps the college in many different ways primarily it helps giving the students contacts. If you take it back to the student because to me, the students are the centre of everything we do, so whether it’s a student who graduated who has that foot in the door for employment or making relationships with employers, industry or partners or possible research opportunities, whether its creating programming for students that industry is looking for so ... so it’s critical (to build those relationships).
“We are seeing things done differently than we’ve seen done in the past. It’s not ever going to be done. It’s not something we can quantify at this particular time. Have we have come a long ways in the last couple of years, for sure, but I mean do we have a long ways to go? I think we do too. We always have to continue to self-evaluate. What is creating the best value for the student?”

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor