More Spaces for Alberta Students
The Alberta Government, along with its tuition subsidy program for Albertans, has also announced that it will be increasing the number of spaces available (http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200502/175816D47D9FC-85A9-43B2-A5DAB0E55AD1AE1F.html) for post-secondary education by 60,000, or almost half the total amount available now. 15,000 of those spaces are expected to be added in the next three years, which is over 10% of the 140,000 full-time equivalents currently enrolled in post-secondary across the province.
In fact, it’s such a large chunk I’m hopeful that distance education is a large factor in these plans, as simply building the infrastructure for that kind of student increase in three years would be an extremely daunting task. Then again, it’s a task similar to the one BC has taken on, devoting millions of dollars to creating more buildings, while at the same time changing grants to loans and providing new funding for actual education that’s only a fraction of the amount being put into buildings.
CASA Misses the Trees for the Forest
The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) has put out a press release (http://www.casa.ca/news.asp?ID=53) praising Alberta Premier Ralph Klein for his tuition freeze, and viewing it as a wake-up call for the Federal Government.
While they’re wrong on the details (tuition is not frozen) they’re right on the big picture. Some provinces across Canada are beginning to realize how important a post-secondary education is to a prosperous future for everybody. While BC lets tuition soar, they are spending a lot of money on trying to improve access to their institutions. Ontario has instituted a true tuition freeze, with money to support the institutions behind it, and now Alberta, the province where the Premier tells working people to go out and get a job if they can’t find a home, is finally taking steps to at least make the tuition crush easier on its own citizens.
This should serve as a notice to the federal government that post-secondary education is becoming a priority across the country, and that some thought should be given to making it a national issue. Until now, our federal government has been mostly involved with funding research. Except for the Millennium Scholarship (which has a number of problems of its own) little has been done to address the tuition problem faced by undergraduate students. Tuition has almost trebled across the country over the past decade yet the student loan lifetime limits remain nearly the same. Since AU is Canada’s Open University, not Alberta’s Open University, I can’t think of a better place to lead the charge.
British Columbia Gives Boost to Millennium Bursaries
The Province of British Columbia is announcing (http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/nrm_news_releases/2005MAE0007-000133.htm) that they are providing support to the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation to provide 26 million dollars in bursaries to students in British Columbia. While this may not seem like news, considering that the foundation already awards around 285 million across Canada through their Millennium Scholarship, this bursary is interesting because it will be specifically targeted at the students whose families have the lowest income. A research project will be run along side to “improve policymakers’ knowledge of the challenges facing low-income students and the effectiveness of different forms of student financial assistance.”
Hey, it can’t hurt.