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Why Funding Is Important

Sometimes in all the talk about provincial funding of post-secondary education, it becomes difficult to remember exactly why it is so important. Yes, we all know that the universities are having difficulties providing all the services they would like to, and sure we know that students have a hard time affording their courses, but these days that almost seems like it’s just the way things are. Universities and students will always want more money, and they’ll always complain about how they aren’t able to function effectively without it, but they still seem to get the job done, right?

Maybe not. In Nova Scotia, the Department of Education was recently notified (http://www.gov.ns.ca/news/details.asp?id=20030829007) that the “Success College for Applied Arts and Technology” filed for bankruptcy protection. Put simply, somewhere the system failed and this college may not be able to continue. While under bankruptcy protection, the courses will continue as normal, but if the school closes, the Department says that “The Private Career Colleges Act provides for protection for students in cases such as this to ensure that the students still get the training.”

This works for a normal, campus based institution, especially in a region as small as Nova Scotia, where another campus based university or technical school is probably not that distant. But what would happen if Athabasca University ran into these types of troubles. Will students across the country be similarly protected? Equally important, many Athabasca University students are here because it is really the only way that they can manage to work a university education in to their lives. Would AU students be guaranteed that they could continue their education in this manner?

It’s something that those in provincial governments across the country should stop to think about. Remember that even as an Ontario student, what Premier Klein does to post-secondary education can have a large effect on you. Perhaps it’s time that we as voters started putting pressure on our own provincial governments to take an interest in Athabasca University.

Manitoba Helps Students Get Work

Manitoba is announcing (http://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/press/top/2003/08/2003-08-29-01.html) funding to help post-secondary students find part-time jobs over the course of the school year. Employers will be able to receive as much as $3.40 per hour to offset the costs of hiring a post-secondary student as a part-time employee. Students can also gain bursaries of $500 or $1000 to be applied to tuition or student loans by performing 100 or 200 hours of community service.

The difference with this program as opposed to many of the other student employment programs is that this one is actually useful to students during the school year, as opposed to just in the summer. Usually I feel that while incentives such as these are good, better incentives might be to apply the money to lower tuition for all students. There certainly is no shame in working while going to university, but it does not make things any easier, either. This case is slightly different however, because the Manitoba government is only providing $200,000 for this program. Such a small amount would provide a minimal benefit to university students, while the community service amounts work well to benefit not only the student, but the community as well.

It’s always nice to see win-win situation occur.
It’s just a shame they’re so rare.

British Columbia Looks After Its Own

The provincial government of British Columbia is announcing (http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/nrm_news_releases/2003MCF0015-000766.htm) an increase of three million dollars to their Youth Educational Assistance Fund. This fund has been set up so that students who grew up in government care have a chance to access post-secondary education. It only makes sense that when the government expects entire families to help out with funding their child’s education, those children for whom the government serves as parents should have some support.

Perhaps more important, however, is that by giving the opportunity for these students to attend post-secondary education, the British Columbia government is actually working to breaking a cycle of poverty that often starts if a person lacks a family to help support them. Children and Family Development Minister Gordon Hogg has said, “In today’s knowledge-based society, parents have an obligation to make sure their children have a good education. Government is the legal parent for about 700 youth who reach the age of majority each year. We are committed to increasing access to post-secondary education and providing the skilled professionals that our province needs.”

The strange part about this program, however, is that it occurs in the province that saw a rise of 30% in their tuitions this year. Last year, a student would have to pay, on average, about $3,100 for a year of undergraduate tuition. This year, a student will have to pay approximately $4,100 (as shown in the Statistics Canada survey I commented on last week). The maximum amount of the grant, on the other hand, is only $3,500.

Perhaps Minister Hogg doesn’t understand what the words “increasing access” really mean.

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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