2008 Alberta Provincial Election Imagine Alberta Post-Secondary Education

imagine alberta: post-secondary education.

A coalition of Post-Secondary Education groups from across Alberta, including the Council of Alberta University Students, Alberta College and Technical Institute Student Executive Council, Alberta Graduate Council, Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations, and Alberta Colleges and Institutes Faculties Association, have launched an advocacy campaign geared at increasing awareness of PSE issues during this election campaign. The Imagine Alberta campaign ad can be seen above.

I’m planning to provide some more detailed analysis on this soon, but for now, here’s a quick look at what each of Alberta’s main political parties are offering in their plans for Post-Secondary Education:

Alberta Greens:

– Ensure the lowest post secondary tuitions in Canada.
– Ease access to continued learning of all kinds, with a focus on more flexible class times and increasing the number of institutions able to offer degree programs.

Alberta Liberals:

– Increase Affordability by giving students a break in their tuition of almost $1,000 a year.
– Create a $300/year books and tools credit for post-secondary students.
– Reduce interest rates on Alberta student loans and increase the part-time earning limits.
– Reducing or eliminating property taxes for on-campus student housing to make
accommodation more affordable and to encourage the construction of more units.
– Recognize regional disparities in allocating student loans.
– Restore legislative control over tuition increases.
– Create targeted additional learning spaces for areas with a high number of applicants.
– Provide three year funding envelopes for post-secondary institutions so they may better plan for the future.
– Establish Mount Royal University in Calgary.
– Establish teaching chairs to support and recognize excellence at post-secondary institutions.
– Improve student-faculty ratios.
– Boost graduate student numbers.
– Create a Post-Secondary Endowment Fund, using a portion of oil and gas royalties (in just 15 years, the endowment could grow to $15 billion and generate $770 million in extra funding every year).
– Create a $500 million Endowment for the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, using a portion of oil and gas royalties.

Alberta’s NDP:

– Reduce tuition fees to 1999-2000 levels, and fully fund a tuition freeze thereafter.
– Reduce the student loan interest rates to prime and find ways to reduce administrative costs on student loan payments.
– Generate additional provincial grant, bursary and scholarship opportunities thereby reducing dependency on student loans.
– Create an endowment for social sciences, arts and humanities research.
– Work to ensure that Cabinet Ministers and MLAs meet with post-secondary institutions, Governors and Student Unions regularly to learn about, and respond to their concerns.
– Increase the availability of post-secondary spaces at existing institutions and support the creation of new facilities, particularly in rural areas where it can be difficult to access post-secondary education.
– Support initiatives to build additional student housing.
– Extend accreditation options to building trade unions to create more apprenticeship spaces.

Interestingly, the NDP website says that the Alberta Liberals “have no plan to reduce tuition levels,” which not only contradicts reality, but also means that the NDP must have missed the giant headline on the front page of last Saturday’s Edmonton Journal that read “Taft vows to roll back tuition.” But then again, the NDP website also accuses the Liberals and Conservatives of neglecting Post-Secondary Education because they accept corporate donations, which doesn’t really even make sense as an argument.

Alberta Progressive Conservatives:

– Continue to limit annual tuition increases to the rate of inflation.
– Lower the student loan interest rate by 2.5% to the prime lending rate.
– Improve affordability of graduate student programs to facilitate research and commercialization and to foster creativity.

As these three bullet points don’t really present much of a plan, I thought it would be fair to give you some more on what the PCs have in mind for PSE. Here is more of Ed Stelmach’s vision for Post-Secondary Education in Alberta:

Alberta Social Credit Party:

– Supports post-secondary education in Alberta.
– Ensure that Alberta citizens be given priority for admission over out-of-province students.
– Provide “fixed term tuitions” to freeze the tuition rates for post-secondary education students for the duration of their program.
– Consult with business and the public sector to determine their requirements for professional and skilled workers over the next ten years. Then meet representatives of Alberta’s post-secondary institutions and develop a plan to provide the necessary facilities and instructors to educate these workers.

Wildrose Alliance:

– Institute an educational scholarship form of financing for all Albertans seeking a post-secondary education. Each qualified Alberta student will receive a full scholarship for five years to the post secondary institution of choice within Alberta.
– Give priority for admission and funding to Alberta students to Alberta post-secondary institutions over out of province students seeking admission and funding.
– Utilize the technology available to make higher education more accessible to all Albertans.
– Work with employers, post-secondary institutions and the Alberta Industry Training and Apprenticeship Commission to increase training and apprenticeships in the trades and technical sectors.
– Strengthen the network of colleges, institutes and on-line learning opportunities throughout the province.
– Increase research and development funding for colleges, universities and institutes and encourage private sector partnerships.
– Double the annual number of graduates in computer science and electrical and computer engineering within five years.
– Increase investment in technology research and post-secondary skills training.
– Support continuing education for members of the professions in the province.
– Provide forgivable student loans to Alberta students attending accredited schools of education providing they teach for ten years in underserved communities in Alberta.
– Include the total cost of post secondary education when calculating amounts for student loans.

Margaret Wente Post-Secondary Education Public Good

wente way off the mark.

Here’s a letter that I emailed to the Globe & Mail yesterday…

Margaret Wente’s column yesterday has bought, hook line and sinker, the argument from McGill Principal Heather Munroe-Blum: low tuition is bad because it doesn’t help people from marginal socioeconomic groups access post-secondary, and it hurt education quality.

The argument misses the point entirely: the question is, is Education a public good or a private good? Primary and secondary schooling is an undisputed public good, and post-secondary is still something of a public good to the extent that it is still somewhat publicly funded; however, post-secondary education being privatized right under our noses in the sense that quality post-secondary is increasingly the exclusive domain of the socioeconomic elite.

Consider the popular argument that lowering tuition would represent a subsidy to wealthy students (and their families) who can already afford to attend — the heart of this argument is an admission that the elite are over-represented, which should itself be a point of serious concern. However, it also ignores the disparate reality that there are a lot of students (let’s say at least the half who emerge with student debt) who struggle to make ends meet and are thus distracted from their studies.

The result is a kind of three-tiered education environment: there are those who can afford to study without financial stress, there are those who can afford to study but only under the condition of financial stress (which is a significant disadvantage), and then there in the third group are people of more than ample aptitude who have written off post-secondary out of aversion to financial stress.

Economists like to say that price sends a strong signal: so far this debate seems to have focused on the notion that high tuition is required for high quality, but the flip-side of this argument is the signal high tuition is sending to young people: ‘higher learning isn’t for everyone, this is just for the best of the best.’ In this sense, it is a question more of values than of value: do we want to distributed advanced learning primarily among the elite, or do we want to make it accessible to all Canadians on a level financial playing field, with room for everyone who is qualified?

2007 National Day of Action Avi Lewis Post-Secondary Education University of Alberta University of Alberta Students` Union

u of a day of action = great success.

The February 7 Day of Action at the University of Alberta was a success with hundreds of students showing up to send a message to the University Aministration and the Provincial Tory Government about the importance of keeping education affordable!

The great speakers included Avi Lewis from the CBC’s The Big Picture and Larry Booi from Public Interest Alberta! You can check out the rally and speeches on YouTube here and here.

Students were joined by a number of political folks including Liberal Advanced Education & Technology Shadow Minister Maurice Tougas (Edmonton Meadowlark) and his fellow Alberta Liberal MLA’s Mo Elsalhy (Edmonton McClung), Hugh MacDonald (Edmonton Gold Bar), and Bharat Agnihotri (Edmonton Ellerslie). Alberta NDP MLA Ray Martin (Edmonton Beverly Clareview) attended along with Edmonton Strathcona Federal NDP candidate Linda Duncan and Edmonton Strathcona Provincial NDP candidate Rachel Notley.

I have to say that it was pretty cool seeing that many students show up to send a message about the need for greater affordability. Also, going out for dinner and drinks with Avi Lewis and some friends later that evening was pretty cool too.

2007 National Day of Action Avi Lewis Post-Secondary Education Tuition University of Alberta University of Alberta Students` Union

avi lewis at u of a day of action!

On February 7 from 12pm to 1pm in front of University Hall, University of Alberta students will be sending a strong and united message to the Alberta government to “Reduce the Fees.” Tuition fees are preventing many Albertans from accessing the education they need. With Alberta’s wealth, investment in education is the way forward.

As the U of A Board of Governors just last week raised Tuition Fees by 3.3% and Residence Rent by 10%, February 7 is the perfect opportunity to send a strong message about the affordability of post-secondary education to the Alberta government as the Premiers meet via teleconference on Feb 7 through the Council of the Federation, as the Alberta Legislature begins sitting on February 26, and as the provincial and federal governments create their 2007 budgets this spring!

Now is the time to send a strong message!

It’s going to be a great time and will include:
– Speakers include:
*AVI LEWIS! from CBC’s The Big Picture!
*Students’ Union President Sam Power
*LHSA VP Janelle Morin
*Larry Booi from Public Interest Alberta, and more!
– FUN MUSIC, petitions, postcards!
– And a special appearance by Stephen Colbert’s *ON NOTICE* BOARD!

It’s going to be an exciting event, so I show up and be counted!

This event is being organized by the University of Alberta Students’ Union.