Bringing education closer to home
U of R works with SIAST to bring classes to Moose Jaw
University education is a little closer to home for Moose Jaw residents. The U of R has recently announced its plans to offer face-to-face introductory classes at the SIAST Palliser campus. It is the second attempt the U of R has made to bring classes to the region, in what is part of a larger, decade long, movement by the university to expand its reach and bring post-secondary education to areas of Saskatchewan that did not have the opportunity before.
Due to increased demand for such programs, the U of R will be offering three courses in both the fall and winter semesters. According to university administration, the increased demand could be the result of low residency availability on campus and lower vacancy rates around the city.
“[Before], over the years we had classes in Moose Jaw,” said U of R Vice President of External Relations, Barb Pollock, “and as we built more residence space, we had more people coming in and staying here and taking classes. As that move happened, the interest in face-to-face classroom work in Moose Jaw went down.”
“I’m not sure if now it is a matter of less residence spaces, we currently have a waiting list for such spaces, or if it is simply a new generation that wants something closer to home.
However, the need and opportunity is there, and when we became aware of that we said ‘well, let’s go back.’”
Pollack stated that the U of R has probably been working on the details of the agreement with SIAST for over a year, but as she points out, the program is still in the beginning stages. The university is planning to use this year as a test phase to discover whether or not the demand for such programs is strong enough to continue providing classes, or perhaps expanding the partnership in the future.
However, in terms of a province wide presence, the move to Moose Jaw is only a small part of a larger effort to bring post-secondary education to areas all over Saskatchewan, and provide the opportunity for students to take classes without having to travel and leave their homes.
“The Moose Jaw experience has to play out a little bit and see how it goes,” Pollock said. “We are already in face-to-face classes in other parts of the province, and we are planning for more. So yes we are already working towards expanding our reach.”
“This would allow some people to have a bit more time at home, rather than coming here for a full year away from their family.” – Barb Pollock
Most recently, the U of R has signed an agreement with the Cypress Health region, and another regional college in Swift Current to explore the possibility of bringing nursing programs to those locations.
“We are always looking at opportunities,” Pollock said. “Whether it is with distance education, or face-to-face classes, to look for needs in the community that we can accommodate.”
Although the agreement with SIAST in Moose Jaw is the most recent move to bring post-secondary education to regions outside of Regina, Pollock estimates that similar initiatives have been ongoing for the past decade in regions all over the province.
As Pollock points out, making post-secondary education a province wide opportunity is not simply about filling a demand, it also has the opportunity to take the potential burden off the shoulders of long-distance students who, in the past, would be facing the reality of moving away from their lives, jobs, and families to persue an education.
“If there is a community in Saskatchewan, like Moose Jaw, that would like to see the University of Regina in its own back yard, and we can do it, I think that serves a need,” Pollock said. “At the same time, we would like to be a cooperative community member, we consider all areas of the province as areas that this university should be in.
“I would guess, although it is speculation on my part, that if this would allow some people to have a bit more time at home, rather than commuting, or indeed, coming here for a full year away from their home, work, and family. I would presume that this is a large reason why the demand for programs like this is in place.”