The United Conservative Party recently released the report from what they are calling a “Blue Ribbon Panel” about Alberta Finances. The report is also being called the MacKinnon report because the head of the panel was Janice MacKinnon. A woman responsible for closing over 52 hospitals during her time in Saskatchewan. If you haven’t heard about or read the report yet, that last sentence gives you a clue was to what’s inside.
Despite the Alberta government describing the panel as an “Independent panel of experts”, the panel was told that their mandate was to review the province’s economic and financial processes and should include providing a plan to balance the budget by 2022-2023, without raising taxes.
How a panel can be independent while at the same time being told of specific solutions they could not look at is a debate for another day, but because of that, it should come as no surprise that they returned with a recommendation that the province make significant cuts across the board, particularly concentrating on health care and education.
When it comes to education, particular focus was given to what is called “performance-based funding”, that is, schools that are having lower rates of success should not be given more money. If you’re an AU student, this should prick up your ears with concern, because Athabasca University has always had a significant issue with the number of students who drop out or withdraw from their studies, degree incomplete. Being a distance university, this is unsurprising, as many people simply don’t have the motivation it takes to be able to propel yourself through an entire degree, especially one as rigorous as those at AU. But if the MacKinnon report is followed, this emphasis on “end performance” stands to put AU directly in the crosshairs of a government seeking to make cuts so that it can continue to live on royalty payments instead of taxes.
If you’re taking an AU class in Alberta, I would suggest that right now is when you need to start getting upset and letting the provincial government know that cutting AU’s budget even further is not a good idea if we want a skilled workforce in this province. Call or write your MLA and make sure they promise that AU won’t be on the chopping block, as we already get far less funding per student than any other post-secondary institution in the province.
Then, once you’re done that, come back and read our latest student interview, with a student in Medicine Hat who would have been unlikely to take her schooling or find her calling if it wasn’t for AU. Also, Marie Well gives you some solid advice for how to crush that next job interview in the latest Fit Student, and if you’ve ever wondered what’s up with the pop-culture craze about zombies, Wanda Waterman makes some canny observations. And when you’re done all that, we still have news, events, advice, scholarships and more!