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Alberta Budgets For Post-Secondary

The Alberta Budget is in and one of the top items in the budget release (Government of Alberta, 2005a) is post-secondary education. The Advanced Education ministry has actually warranted its own special release (Ibid., 2005b), detailing what’s going to happen over the next three years in post-secondary education.

The special release claims that learning is receiving a 30% increase in funding, but really that’s only when you compare the totals from now and those that they plan on spending in about three years.

On the bright side, Alberta’s Advanced Education budget promises a 6% operating cost increase each year for the next three years. Athabasca University was budgeting lower than that, so this means that AU will have more money than they were expecting. It’s a good thing they’re getting this too, because the budget makes it quite clear that the 2005-2006 tuition fee subsidy is only scheduled to be in effect for one year. That means that students need to be prepared for their fees to be increasing by double the normal amount in 2006-2007. For students just starting this year, a large increase like that could come as a nasty shock. Hopefully, the extra percentage points that the government is increasing operating grants will serve to offset tuition increases, at least partially.

Once again, the yearly amount available for student loans has increased. This time, however, it’s being accompanied by a much-needed increase in the lifetime student loan limit, from $40,000 to $50,000. Of course, being that the yearly amount available is now over $12,140, it should have been obvious even to the government that the money would have run out before the completion of a four-year degree.

Another piece of good news is that scholarships and grants are increasing by 11.7%, or 7.5 million dollars, so hopefully more opportunities will be opened up to help students afford post-secondary education.

Part of the total increase is $469 million going toward capital projects (buildings) over the next three years. Athabasca University unfortunately won’t be seeing any of this money. Really though, considering that our infrastructure is technology, I’d love to see a few million going toward AU developing a better distance communication ability, such as through streaming video-conferencing on the web, downloadable lectures by our professors, or maybe even strides toward being able to take your exam at home, invigilated via web-cam.

All of this takes money to research and implement, but because telecommunications isn’t considered a basic infrastructure expense, it’s difficult to convince the government to pay for these types of developments.

That aside, for post-secondary institutions, this budget is the best one we’ve seen in a very long time. Maybe our message has finally started to get through.

As I was Saying

The last couple of articles have had me making backhanded complaints about the federal government’s lack of any sort of plan to handle our obligations under the Kyoto Commitment. It seems I jumped the gun a little bit, as the government actually has been working on a plan (Industry Canada, 2005) for the past six months.

In a nutshell, it seems they are looking at the bulk of our greenhouse gas emission reductions coming from a Climate Fund. Basically, the Climate Fund provides a market mechanism based on purchasing emission credits from other (likely developing) countries that don’t need them as much. I suppose it’s better than nothing.

There is also, however, substantial incentives to help get renewable and emission-free energy sources up and running. This would include subsidies for developing alternative energy companies, as well as tax incentives and the like to encourage companies to reduce emissions.

It all sounds like it may work, and what’s more, it may work without directly harming the oil and gas industry. Change may be in the air after all.

References

Alberta. Government of Alberta (2005a, April 13). News release: Budget 2005 invests in the next Alberta. Retrieved April 18, 2005, from http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200504/178314E76F2BE-B62A-4906-94D265674A2C3D96.html
Alberta. Government of Alberta (2005b, April 13). News release: Budget 2005 puts higher learning at head of the class with 30 per cent, three-year funding increase. Action taken to create thousands of new spaces, expand scholarships, and kick-start endowment fund. Retrieved April 18, 2005, from http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200504/178320DCC81DC-5E36-4611-8B4C9078A6B41154.html
Canada. Industry Canada (2005, April 13). Speaking Notes: The Honourable David L. Emerson, Minister of Industry, “Launch of Moving Forward on Climate Change: A Plan for Honouring our Kyoto Commitment,” Ottawa, Ontario. Retrieved April 18, 2005, from http://www.ic.gc.ca/cmb/welcomeic.nsf/cdd9dc973c4bf6bc852564ca006418a0/85256a5d006b972085256fe2006230ae
Canada. Government of Canada. Taking action on climate change. Retrieved April 18, 2005, from http://www.climatechange.gc.ca/english/

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