Growth of Douglas College will benefit province, city: McAlpine
B.C. needs a more highly educated population to remain economically competitive and to avoid the kind of social unrest that has gripped many European nations.
And New Westminster will reap the benefits, said Scott McAlpine, the president of Douglas College in a presentation to the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce Wednesday at Starlight Casino.
McAlpine said with 47 per cent of high school students graduating without the qualifications they need for direct admission to university or college, the province is rapidly veering towards a two-class system of high unemployment at the same time there’s a shortage of skilled labour. The very incubator, he said, that’s led to frustration and 50 per cent unemployment amongst young people in countries like Greece and Spain, percolating into violence this past summer.
“It’s a structural problem,” said McAlpine. “This will bite us big time unless we do something about it.”
Which is just what he’s set out to do by embarking Douglas on an ambitious mission to become the largest degree-granting college in the province by 2015.
“Post-secondary education is the great leveler in society,” said McAlpine.
With the college’s operating budget at more than $97 million, the impact of that mission is bound to filter down to the cash drawers of New Westminster businesses and the bank accounts of residents, said McAlpine. Sixty percent of Douglas’ students attend classes at the New West campus, many of them traveling from neighbouring communities like Coquitlam, Burnaby and Vancouver, as well as internationally from countries like Korea, Japan and India.
“New Westminster is an education destination,” said McAlpine.
Those students are leaving money in the community. Those living at home spend about $39 million a year while students who live away from home spend $54 million, said McAlpine. On average, Douglas’ 1,100 international students spend about $29,500 a year each.
Overall, the school has a regional economic impact of $225 million, which will only get bigger as the college grows towards its target of 9,500 full-time equivalent enrolments. Already they’re ahead of schedule, said McAlpine, thanks to the creation of new degree, diploma and certificate programs.