Portage College works to maximize local learning opportunities that support economic growth and human development in our campuses in Lac La Biche, Cold Lake, St Paul, Boyle, Frog Lake First Nation, Saddle Lake Cree Nation and Whitefish Lake First Nation #128. In addition, we provide outreach community-based programs to many other communities in our region.
Portage College stewards adult education and training in consultation with our stakeholders including community leadership, secondary schools and industry. We influence student success and bring opportunities to our region that would not otherwise exist in rural Alberta. To continue to build on our 50-year history of success, sustainable funding for our students and the College is critical.
Many challenges exist for students and communities in rural Alberta causing their underrepresentation in the post-secondary sector:
· Many students do not have driver's licenses or vehicles and public transportation is nonexistent.
· Post-secondary is unaffordable at any price point for students from low-income families.
· Many Indigenous students are first generation post-secondary learners and therefore they lack experience, role models and support for pursuing learning.
· Due to family challenges and academic readiness, many students need more time to complete programs.
· Students in foundational and entry-level careers are averse to accumulating student debt in order to obtain their education. This aversion is both cultural and a logical result of the low-earning capacity students experience from the entry-level training.
· Rural communities are experiencing declining levels of skilled trades people.
· Student enrolments for indentured apprentices in our region is declining. The college is at risk of losing funding for apprenticeship training. Many students cannot pursue apprenticeship training as they are not able to become indentured with employers.
· Students without post-secondary education, including skilled trades, are left behind when jobs become available, and therefore the cycle of poverty and reliance on social services is perpetuated.
· Alberta lags behind Canada in terms of post-secondary engagement. We are at 18% while the Canadian average is 24%.
· First Nations and Métis communities want their learners to engage in post-secondary learning and are unable to fund all of those interested.
· While they are in demand, most community-based programs are not sustainable and cannot be expanded. They rely on cost-recovery funding by third parties including funding by the Indigenous communities themselves.
· Student enrolments in our foundational and career entry programming have decreased. In 2001-02, we had 801 students supported by Alberta Works funding. This number declined to 243 by 2017-18. Eligibility criteria was adjusted throughout these years and each time, the number of students has declined.
· Students do aspire to engage in post-secondary learning to improve their lives.
· Therefore, there are students in Northeastern Alberta who are not being adequately served.
Our student demographics are unique compared to other post-secondary institutions:
· Average age 28
· 19% direct from high school
· 45% Indigenous
· 31% married
· Female single parents (16%)
· 89% of our students apply to Portage as their first choice
Portage College is uniquely positioned to serve these learners with our local campuses and wrap-around services. We provide our students with the following in order to level the playing field:
· Small class sizes.
· Extensive wrap-around services such as personal mental health, career counselling and learning assistance.
· Personalized services and holistic development.
· Learning opportunities in their communities where they have family and community support.
Students are successful at Portage and the College is critical to our region's economy:
· 70% of our grads are employed within the region (the investment in local people pays off as they tend to stay in the region longer)
· 88% of students would recommend our College to others
· 99% of employers surveyed say they would hire a Portage grad
· 93% say are our grads are equally or better prepared than grads from other institutions
· Portage College contributes $110 million annually to the communities
· 1/40 jobs in the region are due to the College
· There is strong return on investment for the dollars Portage College receives. For taxpayers, there is $2.10 return for every $1 spent. For every $1 students spend, they get a $4.60 return from future earnings. For every $1 spent, $6.80 is returned in social benefits related to reduced crime, fewer demands for income assistance, and increased health and well-being across the province.
Alberta needs a higher engagement level of students in post-secondary programs in order to positively impact our economy and social health of our communities. To continue to provide the opportunities for success to our student and communities we need:
· Increased and flexible Alberta Works funding and to move the program eligibility back to entry-level career programs. In addition, allow the College to manage with shorter timelines. This removes a significant barrier to entry.
· Grant funding for programs in the Indigenous communities.
· Sustainable funding for all wrap-around services including Mental Health.
· Assurance that the uniqueness of our students and communities will be recognized when any adjustments to the post-secondary system are under consideration.
All students regardless of socio-economic status or mobility issues, need access to post-secondary learning in order to contribute positively to Alberta. Students served by Portage College are unique in terms of their needs and Portage is able to serve these students well. Continued support from the Government of Alberta is critical.
Click the image below to view the full graphic recording image.
Graphic Recording by: Joleyne Mayers-Jaekel of ViClarity Inc.
Jaime Davies, Corporate Communications Manager
780-623-5581 or email