On November 22, Albertans will be going to the polls to elect a provincial government. This might seem like old hat for a province that has faced a federal and a municipal election in the past five months, but a provincial election is especially important for Athabasca students and others attending Alberta’s universities and colleges.
And students are not being silent. The Athabasca University Students’ Union (AUSU), through the Council of Alberta University Students, has teamed up with other student and faculty organizations across the province to make sure Alberta’s post-secondary education system is an issue this election. Together our coalition represents over 200,000 students and faculty including every Athabasca University student. Together we are running television and radio ads across the province, reaching every school through their student newspapers and radio stations, holding events on campus, dropping pamphlets on the doorsteps of 1 in 10 Albertan households, and using a website, http://www.wiseup.ca, as the centerpiece of the campaign.
The campaign’s theme is “It’s Time To Wise Up,” and it is calling for re-investment in post-secondary education from the provincial government. Alberta’s post-secondary education system is perhaps one of the best in the world. Our universities are responsive, high-quality and innovative. You see that everyday in your classes and the breakthroughs made in teaching at Athabasca University. But since 1993 we have seen a massive decline in government investment in our higher education system. With Alberta becoming debt-free and about to start its next century, it is time to re-invest in our students.
I do not have to tell you how much tuition has gone up, with Athabasca having the highest tuition of any institution in the province [ed. Note: this figure is accurate in terms of our total course costs, but our course fees include both tuition and book fees. See below for a table of current university tuition rates in Alberta]. I also do not need to tell you that this tremendous increase in student fees — 273% since 1993 — has not resulted in increased quality of education. In fact, if anything we are getting a lower quality of education than students were getting in before the cuts and tuition hikes.
What I do want to tell you though is that it does not have to be this way. The Alberta provincial government has the power to change our universities and colleges for the better. But for that to happen we need you to act.
If you are an Albertan, do not be afraid to speak up — to your candidates, to the parties and to your friends. It is your job to make sure they know how you feel about post-secondary education. Regardless of where you attend Athabasca from, be sure to visit our website at http://www.wiseup.ca
for lots of information and other easy ways to get involved.
Most importantly, every Alberta student should get out and vote on November 22. The opportunity to make our universities a priority is right there – make your voice heard.
Tuition Comparison, Across Alberta – how does AU stack up?
University of Calgary tuition (1 course): $459 + $100-150/course for books (estimate)
University of Lethbridge tuition (1 course): $455.52 + $100/course for books (estimate)
University of Alberta tuition (1 course): $453.72 + $80-100/course for books (estimate)
Athabasca University tuition (1 course): $408 + $160 per course for books
The core difference is that at AU, book fees are mandatory, while these costs are optional (books can be borrowed, or bought second hand) at other universities. AU, therefore, has the highest mandatory course fees, but the AU tuition portion is in fact lower than the other universities. The AU book fee (called the Learning Resources Fee) includes both text books and the AU produced course materials, such as the course manual and study guide, and is therefore an integral part of the course fee.