Sandra Moore

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Letter from Sandra Moore
Originally published in the Medicine Hat News, January 13, 2003

When it comes to post secondary education in Alberta, we are fortunate to have four universities in our province for our children to choose from. Unfortunately tuition in Alberta is rapidly rising, and by the time your children reach the post secondary education level, if location won’t prevent them from attending university in our province, cost will.

Why is tuition rising so rapidly? Funding from the federal government towards post-secondary education and training has been cut by 7 million dollars since 1993 . The federal government’s attempt to rectify the situation and address the concerns of the roadblocks, the biggest one being finances, to post secondary education was the introduction of the Canada Millenium Scholarship in 1998. This scholarship is not even a dent in the gigantic can of students desparate for financial aid, in fact of the 750,000 students in need of financial assistance yearly, fewer than 8% will be eligible to receive this scholarship . The scholarship is also not available to first year students who without it may not know how they are going to fund that expensive first year of school. The Canada Millenium Scholarship Board is not comprised of understanding, knowledgable board members but rather executives from the corporate world.

The Provincial Government of Alberta is just as much to blame. Tuition in Alberta over the past decade has risen over 200% making an Albertan post secondary education only a dream for the poor prairie farmers child. If Alberta would raise their university funding levels to the national average, universities in the province would be able to roll back tuition rates to ensure accessibility.

What about the universities themselves? They contribute just as much to the need for increased tuition out of student’s pockets as the governments do. Universities are not regulated by governments on how they spend their money. The two main universities in Alberta, the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta, are in a building frenzy in attempts to make their campuses the most desirable in the country. The central administration costs at these universities far outweigh the education costs. Last year, the VP-Finance of the University of Alberta required a $600 doorknob and the president of this same university required several trips to China to secure one deal, in addition to receiving a $59,000 raise.

Alberta’s Learning Minister Lyle Olberg does not see our universities slowly turning into an elitist system – where the possibility of a post secondary education will only be determined by the size of a student’s parents wallet – as a serious issue. Even today, middle class families are starting to feel the pinch. For the children of these families to apply for student loans, parents are expected to contribute a percentage of their income towards their child’s education. Farmers’ children are denied student loans because of the worth of their parents combines or tractors, even though this is equipment is used to produce their product. We can’t expect families to take out second mortgages or farmers to sell off much needed equipment in order to send their children off to get educated. A grade 12 education is no longer sufficient to secure a good paying, permanent position in today’s workforce.

The rising cost of tuition in Alberta’s universities affects all of us, even if we don’t have children. Students who leave university thousands of dollars in debt are going to look for jobs in the bigger cities where the pay will be higher so they can pay off their loans quicker. There will end up being an even greater shortage of doctors, teachers, engineers, social workers, etc: in Alberta’s rural areas if we don’t do something to keep students’ educational debt low.

If you want your children to obtain a post secondary education at an affordable cost, act now! Write your MLA and let him know that you want the issue of affordability of post secondary education to be brought to the attention of government. Also send a copy of your letter to me and I will forward it to the Council of Alberta University Students who will be presenting all the letters they receive to the Alberta Government in their attempts to freeze the rising cost of tuition. The CAUS website at http://www.tuitioncause.com is filled with others ways you can help and other interesting facts. Our children are our future and if we expect to have rural doctors and nurses available to us in our old age in the communities we love, we must act to let the government know that we will not tolerate this issue being swept aside.

Sandra Moore
Athabasca University Student’s Union
Redcliff, AB T0J 2P0

1. Canadian Federation of Students Fact Sheet 2000
2. CFS Fact Sheet 2000

The above letter was originally published as a letter to the editor of the Medicine Hat News. The Voice has the permission of the author to reprint this item.