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News Across The Nation: Running University Numbers, Confusing Space for Access, and Women Catching Up in Nova Scotia September 25, 2002

Running the University Numbers

Statistics Canada has released a report on University Finances for 2000/2001 (see:http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/020916/d020916b.htm. Unsurprisingly, they list that the total percentage of university revenue from government sources has declined while the percentage paid by the students has risen “substantially from a decade earlier”.

Government contributions rose less than 3% over 2000/01, making this the lowest increase in three years. This is the same year in which the Government was proclaiming to all who would listen how their goal was for Canada to be a leader in research and development. It seems that the government is certainly willing to talk the talk, but it remains to see if they will walk the walk.

Getting more specific, Alberta Universities received just over half of their income from government grants and contracts, only Nova Scotia and Ontario’s governments supplied less money than Alberta. Students are shielded somewhat though by the large percentage of revenue that Alberta Universities receive from their investments. Alberta university investments account for just over 7% of their revenues, which more than doubles that of most provinces.

What is somewhat more concerning though is how the expenditures are taking place. Alberta universities are spending only 55% of their revenues on salaries and benefits, the lowest of any province. Given the recent reports about how there will likely be a shortage of qualified faculty members available to universities, this is something that has to change. Alberta universities, and Athabasca University in particular cannot afford to be out-bought when searching for staff – especially considering the emphasis that AU wants to put on its Graduate Studies programs.

But where will that money come from? Well, in the case of Alberta universities, almost 20% of their expenditures go to “furniture and equipment purchase, rental and maintenance, utilities, renovations and alterations, externally contracted services, professional fees, cost of goods sold, debt repayment, internal and external cost recoveries, and lump sum payments.” Only Nova Scotia and Quebec spend a larger percentage of their revenue on these things.

If Athabasca University and Alberta want to keep the Alberta Advantage, it might be time for the province to realize that having well-educated workers does not come for free.

Confusing Space for Access

Following the lead of their Ontario counterparts, the PC provincial government in British Columbia is touting building projects as increasing access to post-secondary education (see: http://os8150.pb.gov.bc.ca/4dcgi/nritem?5558). Yet few people I’ve talked to cite lack of space as a reason for not going on to post-secondary education. Most explain that they simply can’t afford it, either in time, money, or both.

Still, this does not stop the provincial governments from suggesting that every time they build a new building for a University, it will make it easier for students to attend. Oddly, even when I attended the University of Calgary, there were always classrooms and auditoriums that were open, and with universities across the country becoming more aware of distance education, these additional seats, while welcome, surely do not address the core obstacles to people taking post-secondary educations.

Of course, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s far easier for a politician to point to a new building than to point to a student getting better grades they might have earned if they hadn’t been forced to divide their attention between scholastics and employment.

Women Catching Up

A group known as the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women has released a report on women’s education and training, and it is mostly good news (see: http://www.gov.ns.ca/news/details.asp?id=20020918003 ). Women now make up the majority of full-time undergraduates and half the number of graduate students in the province of Nova Scotia. They have received 60% of the Undergraduate degrees and 55% of the Master’s level degrees. If these trends continue they should lead to similar trends in women moving into management positions and positions of power in business and government.

At least, we can hope.

A native Calgarian, Karl is perpetually nearing the completion of his Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Information Studies. He also works for the Computer Sciences Virtual Helpdesk for Athabasca University and plans to eventually go on to tutor and obtain his Master’s Degree.

For further information, please contact ausu@ausu.org, or call 1-800-788-9041, ext. 3413.

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