Canadian Fedwatch! News Across the Nation

Manitoba Students get Free Extension

The Provincial Government of Manitoba has announced (http://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/press/top/2003/04/2003-04-29-08.html) that it will be doubling the interest free period of student loans from six months to a full year. When combined with their recent budget that keeps tuition at 10% below 1999 levels, it seems like going to Manitoba to take your education might work out to be a good deal.

While the effects of this probably won’t serve to encourage a lot more students to pursue a post-secondary education, for those who have already made the decision, this is welcome assistance. That extra interest free period will help many students be able to find work before their payments come due, and may even allow them to get themselves better set up to afford the payments once they do come around.

Manitoba is also taking steps to ensure that this benefit for students also benefits the province as well. The requirement to receive the extra six months of interest free time is that the student must be living in Manitoba as well. By taking the long view Manitoba is working to ensure that as competition for graduate students and faculty increases they already have a steady supply guaranteed from their own population.

Now that’s the way to steady growth.

Jason Lang Scholarship Helping a Record Number

The Jason Lang Scholarship was established in the memory of Jason Lang, a 17 year old high school student who was killed in a school shooting. The Alberta Heritage Scholarship Fund manages the scholarship. This year, the eligibility list for the scholarship was expanded to include post-secondary students in their third year of studies. Each award is worth $1000, and more than 8,500 (http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200304/14262.html) students received the award this year.

Unfortunately for Athabasca University students, most of us are not eligible. Not only do you need to be maintaining an 80% average over the past year, you need to be enrolled for 80% of a full course load (or 4 courses) in the coming year, and you need to be a resident of Alberta. So it seems that AU students get short shrift by the Alberta government, but this is nothing new.

A look at Alberta Learning’s financial papers from 2002 (http://www.learning.gov.ab.ca/annualreport/2002/financial.pdf) show us that AU received less than 10% of the funding that the University of Calgary did, yet with that managed to serve 23,000 students, as opposed to the University of Calgary’s 28,000 students. It seems strange to me that the Alberta government continues to treat AU as a second class university, even though we can apparently operate cheaper and are closer to the mandate of “life-long learning” that the government so espouses than the other universities in the Province.

Hopefully AU President Dominique Abrioux will take some of that extra 7.3% he’s going to be charging us and put it into developing an effective lobbying strategy with the Alberta government. Because, quite frankly, the current one stinks.

Ontario Says It’s Ready

The Ontario Provincial Government is announcing (http://ogov.newswire.ca/ontario/GPOE/2003/05/02/c7154.html?lmatch=&lang=_e.html) that the preparations for the double cohort are complete and are sufficient to the task. More than 70,000 students have been accepted to post-secondary institutions in Ontario, or about 68% of the total number of students that applied. This figure is in line with previous years and the Ontario government is justifiably proud of itself for making it happen.

The question is, what is going to happen in four years or so when the double cohort graduates from college? Are plans in place to ensure that all this extra room will be well used by encouraging larger numbers of students to attend through lowering tuition? Or will they just be wasted – mute, empty monuments to a government not forward thinking enough to realize the benefits of encouraging distance education?

Still I do have to give credit where credit is due. The Ontario Government put a lot of effort into making sure that the double cohort has the same chances as previous years for a post-secondary education and that is a task well done.

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.

%d bloggers like this: