The latest Alberta budget came out not too long ago and if you dig through some of the documents, it becomes apparent, once again, that the primary job of Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides is not actually to support post-secondary education in the province, but rather to do what he can to convert higher education into job training.
Look through the ministry’s business plan and you’ll see multiple references to the “Building Skills for Jobs” strategy. The idea of advanced education being something to encourage creativity, critical thinking, innovation, and the general gain of humanity? Sorry, that’s not what the Minister is concerned about (and remember, this is supposedly the Minister of Advanced Education, not the Minister of Jobs, Economy and Norther Development, not the Minister of Skilled Trades and Professions, those are different people, no, this is supposedly the Minister of Advanced Education, and only Advanced Education). In fact, one of their key objectives is literally to “Strengthen the alignment of post-secondary programs to employment and … support labour market demand.” Because everybody knows how aligning four-year post-secondary educational programs to the labour market demand of today is going to be so relevant once those students graduate. It’s well known how businesses so readily hold off hiring people for four years while they wait for a current cohort of students to proceed through their education.
It’s also telling that if you go further in the plan, they note that the provincial operating investment per full-time equivalent student was falling from 2019 – 2021, and proudly note that only Ontario and BC provide less funding for their post-secondary students.
Of course, with the massive windfall in oil revenues, and knowing that university students are generally of voting age, they’ve managed to put a few things into the document to make themselves look good. For instance, they’re instituting a tuition cap of 2%. Not this year, mind you, no. They’re going to save that for the 2024-2025 year, knowing that they’ll have the opportunity of another budget before then to eliminate the promise, or be able to criticize whoever replaces them if that party doesn’t follow through.
They’re also extending the “interest free” period for student loans, which sounds like a good thing, until you realize that “interest free” is not interest free at all, it’s just payment free. The interest still accrues on your loan, meaning once you’re out of interest free time, your loan is larger than it was when you started.
However, they are also promising to lower the student loan interest rate to the prime rate, and increase the threshold of how much you can earn and still qualify for repayment assistance. Those are, I’ll admit, simply good things for students, and I can’t criticize either. So at least there’s that silver lining.
Meanwhile, this week in the Voice Magazine, there’s a lot of interesting things from our featured student interview, to a look at what we might glean from the upcoming International Women’s Day, a study on the importance of being direct, as well as some linguistic confusions, recipes, events (do check out the events, it looks like there’s a lot of really interesting stuff coming up this week) advice, inspirational articles, and more!