Collège La Cité’s local programs are not going anywhere. Recent reports and rumours have led many to think that the Ottawa-based French-language community college will no longer be offering any programming at the former Collège d’Alfred campus or in the local area. Frédéric Thibault-Chabot, La Cité’s Dean of Agri Food, Specialized Trades Centre, Technology, Arts and Communication said they are trying to keep the situation in perspective. The Ontario government owns the building and wants to sell it, meaning that classes offered at the facility as part of La Cité’s Agri-Food Training and Research Institute may have to find other venues. All classes at Alfred are running as normal for the 2018-2019 year but the college’s ability to use the building will not exist in the 2019-2020 year because provincial grants to help cover the rent of the facility will no longer be available.
Thibault-Chabot said La Cité’s plan is to continue offering programs. There will be no cuts to agricultural and food-based programming, but there will be changes in the way those programs are delivered. Changes may include more workplace-based learning where students are learning in an actual workplace where they could potentially be employed after graduation. That, of course, means that workplaces will in some cases, become the new classroom. Thibault-Chabot said there are 40 such partnerships between the college and employers. One of them is with the Embrun CO-OP. Classroom programming could be offered in locations throughout the region, at the Ottawa campus, or even still in Alfred, depending on what decisions are made for the future use of the building, according to Thibault-Chabot.
One of the things the future use of the Alfred building hinges on is the Centre for Innovation and Transformation in Agriculture (CITA) plan. It’s a partnership between Collège La Cité, the Prescott-Russell Community Development Corporation, the Union des cultivateurs franco-ontariens (UCFO), and the Prescott-Russell Entrepreneurial Academy that proposes to establish a community hub and educational facility at the site. However, the United Counties of Prescott and Russell council has so far rejected overtures to provide the $5.5 million required to take ownership of the building and get CITA running.
The Collège d’Alfred was originally operated as an agricultural college by the Ontario government. In the late 1990s, the province transferred the operations of it and the other agricultural colleges to the University of Guelph, but it retained ownership of the campus. In 2014, the province and the university announced that programming at Alfred would be discontinued but La Cité took over providing many services and the barns and land on the lower campus were taken over by the UCFO which operates the Ferme d’éducation et de recherche du campus d’Alfred (FERCA) research farm.
Frédéric Thibault-Chabot said Collège La Cité remains fully committed to providing programming in eastern Ontario communities. He said they’re even looking at adding more programming, including a new cheesemaking course.