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RALPH KLEIN’S FIRESIDE CHAT TO ALBERTANS PROMISES PSE CHANGES
After days of eager anticipation, the Alberta government’s education plan was revealed this evening during Premier Ralph Klein’s annual “fireside chat.” The government had promised an announcement of “some important news for the postsecondary sector, which is so vital to young people’s futures.”
The program aired on CFRN television, following the Tuesday evening newscast. Most of it was comprised of an overview of Alberta’s past and present accomplishments, including voices of “ordinary” Albertans, with a focus on the upcoming centennial in 2005. Klein began the discussion from an empty schoolroom at MacKay Avenue school, Alberta’s historic first school, and ended it at Centennial School in Calgary surrounded by a classroom of students and computers. Symbolic, no doubt, of the announcement made at the culmination of the program.
Klein made a promise to the children of Alberta that the next 100 years will be even better than the first, adding that there is no better legacy than giving each child the opportunity to develop the skills they need to be successful in life. He said that students are leaving Alberta because there are no university spaces and insufficient apprenticeship opportunities, and this needs to change. He then announced that immediate action will be taken to create more spaces at our universities, colleges and technical schools. Over the next 3 years, the current 140,000 spots will be increased by 15,000, in 6 years by another 30,000, and by 2020, some 60,000 new post-secondary education spaces will be added–the equivalent of two major university campuses.
Ralph then went on to address what is a major concern–affordability. He stated that several universities in Alberta have already announced tuition hikes for the upcoming year, and then said he had a message for these universities. “If you must increase tuition, don’t send the bill to students, send it to us.” With that, he promised that the government will pay the tuition increases for the next year at all Alberta universities, so that when students start classes in September they will “not pay a dollar more” than they have been paying in 2004.
Acknowledging that this was a solution for one year only, he announced a second commitment–that by 2006 Alberta will have defined a new tuition policy for the 20th century that will be the most innovative and entrepreneurial in the country. More will be revealed regarding this plan when the Alberta legislature begins its spring session, beginning with the introduction of Bill 1.
Government of Alberta News Release, January 28, 2005. http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200501/17540A2A93C56-CF5B-4162-88D20A2FDD8CA72F.html
Alberta’s Celebration of the Century, Telecast CFRN 6:30 P.M. MST, February 8, 2005