This of course would mean less local-area students would have to move to say Southern Virginia, Idaho or Utah just to attend a college or university that embraced their values.
“It’s more of a gesture of good faith,” said chief administrative officer Wade Alston of the letter of support Cardston requested to hire a professional who will drive the project forward.
“Children from this area would have another schooling option. Their system is based on a US model that has been working in Southern Virginia.”
Although Cardston isn’t looking for a financial commitment of any kind from the municipalities, the town would just like support of its neighbours prior to moving ahead.
“I think they feel they are the tip of the spear, in terms of the LDS community,” Alston said of Cardston. “Anyone could attend the university but I think the major contributors to it would likely be from that community.”
If an institution was successfully erected in Cardston, it would certainly attract more than just locals to attend with the draws of fresh mountain area and beautiful views to tempt them. This would also mean an increase of support for the local economy.
However the big issue many counsellors saw with the institution are the financial repercussions it would have on local, public institutions like the University of Lethbridge or Lethbridge College. Which are institutions still being funded through taxpayer dollars and often depend on enrollment fees to sustain funding throughout the year.
“Philosophically, I’m against it,” said Coun. DeVar Dahl. “The more support there is for private schools and universities the more it weakens our public schools and it doesn’t sit right with me.”
Other counselors, like Craig Godlonton, said he didn’t see anything wrong with supporting the Town of Cardston’s endeavour, as long as it’s “not going to drain dollars from the public school system.”
“It’s just one more education option for people,” he said. “I for one have paid for children to go south for school and we aren’t on the same playing field coming from another country. So we don’t qualify for grants and all kinds of things that US citizens qualify for, we are somewhat at a disadvantage.”
Although the planning for the post-secondary institution is in the early stages, Alston sees the project being successful in a number of years.
A meeting between the neighbouring communities was held recently and the general consensus around the room was “other municipalities seem to be supportive of (Cardston) in this endeavour.”
“If it’s about attracting business to our community, we want that,” said Coun. Richard Van Ee, of the proposed liberal arts, undergraduate institution.
The motion to sign the letter of support sent by the Town of Cardston was however defeated.
“We are not opposed to (Cardston) being successful with this,” said Coun. Brenda Beck. “(But) it doesn’t sound like they were interested in educating kids in this area. We are not against them getting it, but I don’t think we are interested in the business of supporting it . . . Philosophically I’m where DeVar is, I really believe in the public school system.”