Alberta’s Shuffled off the Debt
On June 12, the Alberta Provincial government was proud to announce (http://www.gov.ab.ca/home/index.cfm?Page=852) that it will be the first province to completely eliminate its debt.
By March of next year, a debt servicing account will have the funds required to pay off all Alberta’s debt as it comes due, and legislation will be passed locking the funds into that account for that specific purpose.
While a good portion of the debt has been paid by increasing revenues from Alberta’s natural resources, it shouldn’t be discounted that a significant portion has also been paid by Alberta students, in the form of increased student loan and personal debt that we’ve been forced to take in order to continue our educations.
Hopefully now, with the final shreds of debt having been taken care of, the government will find it harder to answer questions as to why there is an increasing need for food-banks on post-secondary campuses, or why Alberta post-secondary institutions are having a more difficult time recruiting new faculty.
Heck, with the $150 million per year that this latest payout will save, they might even be able to start putting more into Athabasca University than the students do, making it a public institution once again. After all, 150 million would be able to wholly fund an Athabasca University of nearly twice the size.
Imagine an AU with half the busy signals and no tuition required. That’s what 150 million dollars per year could do. (Of course, in reality, with no tuition, we’d probably get twice the amount of busy signals, but it’s still a nice dream)
In August, a mailer will be sent out to all Albertans asking them what Alberta should do now that it’s debt free. The same mailer will likely be available on their website, so if you live outside of Alberta, you still might be able to have your voice. Since you’re contributing to the Alberta Advantage by taking courses from AU, perhaps you should take that opportunity to have your say as well.
School Boards in Nova Scotia see Increase
After a review of the school boards in Nova Scotia by the department of education, it’s been determined that they aren’t getting paid enough (http://www.gov.ns.ca/news/details.asp?id=20040708003). So with the next school board, their annual stipends will increase by $1000 or $1500 depending on the position.
The pay is still not something I’d recommend for a full time job, but if you care passionately about education, there are worse places you could be.
After all, even though the school boards typically concentrate on the K-12 range, they are also in an excellent place to make their voice heard by the government on a range of education issues, including post-secondary education.
With a recent report out by Statistics Canada showing that Nova Scotia actually spends the lowest per non-post-secondary student of all the provinces, however, your work would certainly be cut out for you.
West Nile Comes to Alberta
The West Nile virus, a virus carried by mosquitoes, has been found (http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200407/16772778C51C0-178B-4565-AC066D3F60F9F386.html) in a patient in Alberta in the Northern Lights Health Region. This region is just north of Athabasca so may be a concern if your tutors are actually Athabasca residents. However, the Alberta Government has determined that the case is probably isolated as the person involved had just come from Arizona, where West Nile is fairly prevalent.
With a strong campaign against West Nile currently running in Alberta, however, it seems the government is afraid it may soon be here regardless. This just points out yet again some of the advantages and disadvantages of learning at a distance. If your teaching staff is spread out, it becomes less likely that they will all contract some sort of illness at the same time.
However, it also means that they could become ill when you’re still perfectly healthy and able to work. I always hope that AU will concentrate more on getting faculty and staff from outside Athabasca and even outside Alberta.
The varied cultures could provide a unique experience to our learning that regular students could never hope to get, plus a faculty scattered across the globe means that our learning could continue simply by changing tutors.
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.