Taking Notes: Eye on Education – Lines continue to blur between universities and colleges

Taking Notes: Eye on Education – Lines continue to blur between universities and colleges

This column focuses on a wide range of issues affecting post-secondary students. Students are encouraged to submit suggestions and educational topics they are concerned about, or personal experiences with courses or university situations they feel other students should know about. If suggest a topic or a course alert for taking notes, contact djabbour@ausu.org


At this time of year there is a lot of media attention on students going to university, and the choices that face them. In Alberta, with the new degree-granting ability of colleges, change is in the air. Grant MacEwan Community College (GMCC) is preparing to offer full degrees in arts, nursing and child & youth care by the fall of 2005 (the college already offers 2-year university transfer programs). The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology is looking at applying to offer a new four-year bachelor of technology program.

Some have wondered if the increased competition will have a negative effect on current universities. University officials have argued that competition is not a bad thing, and pointed out that students will continue to be attracted to what they term a “full service” university with a reputation for research, master’s degrees and PhD’s.

For students, competition means greater choice, and more options. Up until now, it has also meant financial savings. Many students chose the 2-year transfer option at GMCC because it charged tuition fees that are about $1000 a year less than the University of Alberta.

It has been noted, unfortunately, that the cost savings of attending a college instead of a university may disappear once the colleges have the ability to grant degrees. Currently the U of A spends about half its revenue on research. GMCC, on the other hand, puts most of its money into teaching and can therefore charge lower tuition. If GMCC is required to spend more money on research to support its new degree-granting status, tuition will rise accordingly.

Larry Johnsrude. Choices increase after high school: Tuition, class size, reputation all in play. Edmonton Journal, September 5, 2004.