Provide stable funding and improve access to post-secondary education
Posted on April 28, 2015 by Greg Clark
Alberta’s universities, colleges and technical institutes are the launch pad for future economic prosperity in this province.
The Alberta Party recognizes the significant social returns from investment in education. It is the key to personal opportunity, growth and enrichment and is essential to maintaining our future prosperity. To ensure Alberta can compete internationally, we need the best educated, highly trained and creative workforce possible. We also need to ensure that post-secondary institutions keep up with the demands of Alberta’s growing and evolving labour force.
Rising tuition fees, student debt and lack of spaces in our post secondary institutions have pushed post-secondary education out of reach for many Albertans. Alberta has the lowest participation rate in post-secondary education in the country. Cost is the primary barrier to all forms of post-secondary education, both academic and trades training. The Alberta Party seeks to eliminate financial barriers that prevent access to otherwise qualified candidates.
The Alberta Party believes that ensuring we have well-funded post-secondary institutions and a highly educated workforce is essential to promoting economic diversification. We will fight to:
1. Cap tuition increases at the rate of inflation.
In 2006, the provincial government legislated that tuition cannot rise at a rate higher than inflation. However, this cap is set to expire in August 2016. The Alberta Party will advocate on behalf of all post secondary students to keep education affordable and accessible. The PCs' budget strongly suggests that they will lift the tuition cap. Students should not be asked to pay for the PCs' decision to increase our reliance on on oil and gas revenue.
While the tuition cap has not yet been lifted, the government has found other ways to raise the cost of higher education. Last December, the PC government raised tuition for eight percent of students in the province under “market-modifier” measures. These students will pay an additional $21 million in tuition next year alone.
2. Ensure all Alberta students who qualify for post-secondary education have access to a space.
According to Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education, the number of qualified students turned away from Alberta’s post-secondary institutions has doubled in the past four years. The Alberta Party’s position on access is simple: if a student qualifies for post-secondary education there should be space for them. Currently, there are empty classrooms across Alberta where post-secondary institutions cannot afford to run classes. This is unacceptable.
3. Restore the Summer Temporary Employment Program to provide more students with summer jobs in their field.
The PC government ended the Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP). The program was created by Peter Lougheed over 40 years ago and employed around 3,000 students every summer. This program gave many students their first job and the opportunity to learn skills and gain experience they would not otherwise receive through formal education. The program also helped to open doors to future job opportunities. Today, Alberta’s youth unemployment rate sits at approximately 10%, double the overall unemployment rate.
Not only did the decision to end STEP hurt students in Alberta, approximately 2,400 municipalities, community associations, and non-profits across the province can no longer afford to hire summer students.
4. Reduce student debt by increasing access to needs-based grants.
The Alberta Party would seek to make university more accessible by increasing scholarships, grants, and awards available to Alberta’s post-secondary students. In particular, Alberta students have repeatedly asked the government for more “upfront” funds to support their education. On average, a student in Alberta graduates with $18,800 in debt.