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Looking Back

The Voice issue of spring 1994: The Alberta Government has announced it will eliminate 21 percent from Advanced Education Funding over three years. The then minister of Advanced Education and Career Development, Jack Ady, says that “I firmly believe, however, that efforts to control spending now will ensure that future generations of Albertans do not carry the burden of our debt.”

Come the summer edition, and Minister Jack Ady cuts another 10% from AU on top of the already allotted 21% cut, citing the low number of graduates that Athabasca University has, even though many students who take courses from Athabasca University are doing so in support of degrees at other Alberta institutions. In the Fall, perhaps realizing that having a University go bankrupt would look bad on his record, the Minister looks to boosting the tuition cap from 20% to 25%.

In the Fall issue, the response by AU was an action plan focussed on recruiting more students to try to make up for the shortfall in funding.

Today, the tuition cap is at 30% and there is consideration being given to removing it altogether for Athabasca University. The AU Strategic University Plan is focussed on recruiting more students to try to make up for a lack of funding from a government that has shown repeatedly it feels that a publicly funded post-secondary education program is a luxury that cannot be afforded – especially if it threatens the legislature’s retirement plan.

You’d think, being a university, we’d at least learn from the past and see that increasing enrolment is obviously not a panacea to cure funding shortfalls.

Learning Minister Lyle Oberg has stated that the education funding system is not in crisis, but approves Edmonton schools having to run a deficit. The government still proclaims that ensuring the province has no debt is a top priority, while at the same time letting tuition and student debts rise higher on the one hand, and failing to increase the total amount of student finance funding available on the other hand.

The government prides itself on its fostering innovation and technology within the province, while nearly half of the graduating high-school students not attending post-secondary cite the cost as the reason.

At the same time, the Athabasca University Governing Council worries that if it allows its prices to drop too low, it will be seen as a second-class University, never mind that a University’s reputation has far more to do with the quality of its graduates than the initial price to get in the door.

Is it just me or does is seem that everybody involved need to be beaten with a clue-stick?

Beaten With A Clue-Stick

The Ontario Provincial Government did get beaten with a clue-stick it seems. More commonly known as SARS, this clue-stick pointed out the dangers of underfunding publicly needed services such as hospitals for nursing, and education to create new nurses. Having been shamed in front of a global audience, Premier Ernie Eves’ is trying to make up for it, or at least make sure it doesn’t happen again.

To that end, the province has announced a plan (http://www.premier.gov.on.ca/english/news/Nurses050803.asp) to give free tuition to nursing students who begin their career in under-serviced communities.

Of course, by AU’s metric, this must mean that all the nurses from Ontario are second class. Imagine having to pay no tuition – why, that education must be worthless.

Hey! Maybe if carpal tunnel becomes an epidemic, I can get my education for free too?

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.

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