alberta: where opportunity smells like mediocracy?

Yesterday, Alberta’s Advanced Education Minister Denis Herard, released the results of the Tory Government’s year-long consultation process on post-secondary education. The process, titled A Learning Alberta, was created to review Alberta’s post-secondary education system following Tory Premier Ralph Klein’s statement in his 2005 State of the Province Address that…

“By the time post-secondary students head back in September 2006, Alberta will define a new tuition policy for the 21st century. It will be the most affordable, entrepreneurial, and affordable tuition policy in the country. We will do whatever it takes to make sure money isn’t a barrier to attending Alberta’s post-secondary institutions.”

As groundbreaking as his promise sounds, the lacklustre recommendations of the review clearly do not deliver on the Premier’s promise to Albertans.

What the 24-page report recommends is the continuation of the status quo – keeping Alberta’s post-secondary tuition levels at 2004/2005 levels, the exact same level that Alberta students have been paying since the Premier made his promise a year ago.

For the past year, students have been advocating for a substantial and real tuition rollback. The most affordable tuition in Canada is Quebec, at $1900 per year, Newfoundland is next with $2,606. At 2004/05 levels ($4,536 plus other fees at the U of A) Alberta will still exceed even the national average of $4,214 the national tuition average.

The shadowy wordsmiths of the Public Affairs Bureau may be calling the recommendation a “rollback,” but it’s clear that the Tories may be opting for the second definition of the word…

roll·back (rōl’băk’) pronunciation

1. A reduction, especially in prices or wages, to a previous lower level by governmental action or direction: a price rollback; a rollback of military supplies.
2. A turning back or retreat, as from a previously held position or policy: hoped for a rollback of support for the opposition’s proposed legislation.

The Province of Alberta has an incredible opportunity to create an amazing post-secondary education system – I just wish we had a government with the will to step up to the plate and seize that opportunity.

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