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Newfoundland Studies Post-Secondary

The provincial government of Newfoundland has announced (http://www.gov.nf.ca/releases/2003/youth/0722n01.htm) almost $74,000 in funding for a feasibility study on whether postsecondary education needs to be expanded within the province. The studies to assess various needs of the region including educational, cultural, social, and developmental ones. The study is also supposed to come up with preliminary plans and strategies for how to deal with these assessed needs.

Once again it seems that the folks in the Maritimes have a keener eye for the future than most of the rest of us. While the rest of the provinces are happy to pay lip service to postsecondary education, Newfoundland is the only province that actually seems to be studying the need and what’s going to be happening in the future.

This should be important for Athabasca University as we have much to contribute when it comes to delivering education to people who normally do not have access. That is, after all, our mandate. Since Athabasca University is claiming that it must expand in order to survive this strikes as a wonderful opportunity to spread awareness of the university and hopefully expand without having to raise tuitions.

Supporting the Cattle Industry?

Alberta has recently announced (http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200307/14842.html) an additional 79 million dollars to be used in support of the cattle industry. To put this into perspective, the entire budget (http://www.athabascau.ca/report2002/operat.htm) of Athabasca University was done with a total revenue of only 54 million dollars for 2002, and the tuition of all of the students, graduate and undergraduate, of Athabasca University only came to 26 million dollars. Or in other words, for less than a third of what is being given out as aid today, tuition at Athabasca University could have been waived. Think of the economic benefits that would have – not only would students be able to freely take courses making them more valuable workers in the future, but they would have been able to spend their money elsewhere, perhaps at the grocery store buying beef instead of having to deal with the food bank, like many students do each year.

Now, I understand that cattle is a major industry, and that there are many livelihoods riding on this decision, but remember that all of this has come from a single case of BSE. A case that we still do not know where it came from, of a disease that we still do not know for sure how it spreads. If this single case can shut down the beef industry across our entire nation, this suggests that perhaps we need to look at a less risky form of agriculture. Instead of devoting all of this money to continuing an industry that is still at an unknown level of risk, maybe some of that money should be devoted to creating and marketing other food products.

If we remember last year, the Alberta Government was having to bail out the cattle industry again, because drought conditions made their food too expensive. How many more years will the Alberta Government continue to bail out ranchers while letting post-secondary students fall by the way-side? Perhaps equally disturbing is simply the willingness of the Alberta Government to loosen the purse strings when it comes to cattle, but when it comes to students unable to afford basic necessities of life while gaining an education – something that will eventually benefit many more people than a cow can – the strings stay tightly shut.

I guess that’s what angers me most about this. It’s not so much that I mind supporting the ranchers, they are in a bind and it certainly isn’t of their own fault, it’s that I see this 79 million dollars now and wonder where this was when the government decided that their funding increase to universities should be less than the rate of inflation.

Thanks, Mr. Klein.

When’s the next election, again?

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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