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AU and Alberta: Damned if you Do, Damned if you Don’t

The Alberta Government was recently pleased to announce (http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200403/16132.html) that it is providing over 10 million dollars to post-secondary institutions as a way to recognize outstanding performance. The money is apparently distributed on factors such as “outstanding performance in achieving goals in areas such as graduate employment and satisfaction, increasing accessibility, reducing administration expenditures and generating enterprise revenue.”

Athabasca University got a share of that as well, receiving about $214,000 dollars, just slightly more than Keyano College, and slightly less than Red Deer College. For those of you who are wondering just where the heck Keyano College is, it’s located in Fort McMurray, and in its 2002 annual report, boasted just over 11,000 students(1). Red Deer College is of course located in Red Deer, and also has just over 11,000 students(2).

In comparison, the University of Alberta received over $2,372,000, or more than 11 times that of Athabasca University, despite the fact that both institutions are serving over 30,000 students.(3) Of course, as stated above the awards weren’t based on strict enrolment. Instead, they were based on improving things that Athabasca University already excels at.

For instance, considering that Athabasca University is an open university, and that does not restrict access, how in the world could it possibly make strides in increasing accessibility? The answer is, it can’t.

Similarly, how can Athabasca University reduce administration expenditures if they are already cut to the bone? Again, the answer is simply that they can’t.

So it seems the government isn’t willing to reward efficient operations so much as they are willing to reward non-efficient operations getting a little better.

I guess this is proof of the idea that there’s such a thing as doing your job too well.

(1) Keyano College 2002 Annual Report.
http://www.keyano.ca/about/AR2002.PDF p. 24
(2) Red Deer College Introduction and One Year Statistics 2002/03.
http://www.rdc.ab.ca/rdcimages/documents/32/rdc_factbook_intro_1yr_02_03.pdf p. 5
(3) University of Alberta Fast Facts.
http://www.uofaweb.ualberta.ca/facts/nav01.cfm?nav01=16135

Post-Secondary Learning Act now Official

On St. Patrick’s Day, the Government of Alberta also made official (http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200403/16107.html) Bill 43, the Post-Secondary Learning Act. What this means to you is that next year, Athabasca University will be able to increase tuition to CPI + 2%, or in other words, 2% above and beyond whatever inflation turns out to be. Of course, no similar increase has been legislated for the amounts provided by student loans, and indeed the maximum life-time amount has slowly been falling behind.

Another fun aspect of this new Act is that the Ministry of Learning has now granted itself the ability to interfere in the affairs of your Students’ Union. However, they carefully point out that it will only interfere in cases of financial irregularities, and not “merely because government does not like what students are saying.” Even if we ignore the fact that the Provincial Government does not provide support for the Students’ Unions or have any responsibility for their actions, there still is the issue of the legislation not providing any type of penalty or restitution should the government’s investigation (which will of course disrupt any operations of the union) be determined to be without merit.

This doesn’t just affect AUSU, but every student organization in the province. If any of them start making things too uncomfortable for the province, the government can now effectively shut down the union for a time while it investigates “financial irregularities” which may or may not exist.

I expect that since the legislation went through here, the next to be hit with similar legislation will be one of the other unions that gives the province considerable difficulties come the elections. I’m laying my money on the nurses’ union.

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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