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Alberta Attacking Students

The Government of Alberta was pleased to announce ( Bill 43, in support of a seamless post-secondary system. Unfortunately for Alberta and Athabasca University post-secondary students; apparently seamless means sealing themselves away from pesky student requests.

One of the most interesting things about the Act is that the tuition cap, that small matter that kept our tuitions down to only 30% of the total cost of education, has been moved from legislation to regulation. This change means that the tuition cap can be changed at the drop of a hat with no public consultation, input, or even forewarning. The Learning Minister simply goes into a back room, decides he doesn’t want to spend as much on University tuition, and suddenly students are on the hook for the entire amount so that tax-payers no longer have to foot the bill. This looks great for four years, but once the supply of new graduates starts to slow we start to see the real effects in the economy.

Fortunately for the provincial government, elections only come once every four years, so they don’t have to look beyond the next one anyway.

As if that isn’t enough, Student Unions are included under this new Bill. Not that the government is granting them any funding to increase their advocacy or push the rights of the student. No, they are mentioned in this bill specifically in the context that the Board of the University may choose to have a Student’s Union Council investigated and disbanded, with the students paying for the investigation and the investigator’s unspecified wage until a new Council can be elected.

Now, considering that every university student’s union is funded entirely by you, the student, what right do the boards of the universities, or even the provincial government have to investigate and disband them? Is the tutor’s union subject to be disbanded if the board doesn’t like what they do? How about the professional staff’s union? So why, then, would they put in this bit of legislation against the Student’s Unions?

If you take these two changes in tandem, however, the answer becomes clear. They want to make sure we can’t make too much noise when they have us bent over.

Bill 43 ( needs to be seriously altered before any of the damage it can do comes to pass. CAUS [see Shirley Barg’s Just CAUS column in this issue] is going to be having a publicity push on this, but you can step up to the plate yourself. If you’re in Alberta, you can find out who your MLA is ( and write or call them. In addition, if you know anybody in a union (and this would include your tutors) you may want to ask them to bring this up to their union representative, or who knows, they might find that their union is next.

Worth the Debt?

The Maritime Province’s Higher Education Commission has released a study ( showing that although students are having to cope with higher debt loads then ever, graduates still say that the education is worth the money.

The 1999 graduating class was surveyed and show high employment rates, higher earnings than previous graduates, high satisfaction with their educations. The average debt is over $20,000 and the number of students requiring $30,000 or more in assistance has doubled since 1996, however students still say it was worthwhile.

Then again, people who stood in line for the Episode 1 of Star Wars for three days said that it was worthwhile as well. It just stands to reason, the more you put into something, the more you come to believe that what you’re trying to do is worth it. It’s a fairly well known psychological phenomenon with regard to expectations, effort, and perceived value. Or putting it simply, after spending that much, of course you’re going to say it was worth it, otherwise you’d have been a bloody fool for continuing to get more loans. Since nobody wants to say they’re foolish, they say that the crushing debt is worth it instead.

Using this logic, we can see that the higher the loans get, the more that suckers.. sorry, students.. will say the debt-load is worth the education, so the Provinces can merrily continue on their way and say they know that the debt is bad, but students are still saying they get value for the money.

Now maybe we do, and maybe we don’t get our loans worth. But taking this kind of self-satisfaction survey strikes me as poor research at best.

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.