I thought I’d post this a series of great questions asked by MLA Gene Zwozdesky (PC-Edmonton Mill Creek) during yesterday’s Question Period in the Alberta Legislature.
Affordability of Postsecondary Education
Mr. Zwozdesky: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Everyone recognizes the value of having a postsecondary education and what a tremendous asset it is in our knowledge-based economy and our knowledge-based society. Earlier today I had a very informative meeting with three representatives from CAUS, the Council of Alberta University Students, who are with us still in the gallery as I speak and who raised several important points that pertain to university students and to those who hope to be university students. My questions are to the Minister of Advanced Education and Technology. With essential living costs and all other costs on the rise, what are you doing to reduce or at least address financial barriers that university students, and others for that matter, are facing as they pursue . . .
The Speaker: The hon. minister.
Mr. Horner: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. Making postsecondary education affordable is a priority for this government – affordability, accessibility. In November of 2006 we released the affordability framework, which had a great deal of consultation not only with students but with other stakeholders in the system. We’ve rolled back tuition to 2004, and we’ve limited increases to the Alberta consumer price index, which I think was something that was supported in large measure by all stakeholders. That’s about 3.3 per cent this year. Without those changes, students would have faced tuition fees anywhere from 6 to 11 per cent this year. An undergrad-uate student would save over $ 3,800 over the four years.
The Speaker: The hon. member.
Mr. Zwozdesky: Thank you. When will your ministry return so-called tuition fees principles back to legislation, an action that will surely lessen the load of any possible tuition fee increases in the future?
Mr. Horner: Well, Mr. Speaker, it’s not necessarily true that it would lessen the load of any possible increases in the future because the process would be very similar. What we’re saying is that putting it into the regulation enabled us to do exactly what I just talked about in my previous answer, and it enabled us to do it very quickly. I can commit to the students of this province and I can commit to the stakeholders of this province that we have no intention of making any changes without very extensive consultation with them and with members of government and members of the opposition.
The Speaker: The hon. member.
Mr. Zwozdesky: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. To the same minister: from an infrastructure point of view how do you intend to provide a better balance for undergraduate facility improvements and expan-sions and so on in comparison with graduate facilities, research, and advanced research facilities?
Mr. Horner: Well, Mr. Speaker, again, a very good question and, I know, one that is on the minds of the student population. We had a meeting this morning with CAUS, and I’ve met with a number of the stakeholders in the industry or in the system about the Campus Alberta approach. Really, narrowing down into what the roles, responsibilities, and mandates are of each institution within that Campus Alberta approach and managing the growth pressures to build a stronger Alberta and a stronger Campus Alberta for all students and all stakeholders, we will come up with a collaborative, co-operative approach to making sure that we have a balance to our capital in all of those institutions.