Media releases | January 07, 2008

EDMONTON—Public Interest Alberta, in partnership with faculty, students and staff at Alberta’s college, university and technical institutions, has launched a new advocacy campaign that calls on the provincial government and all political parties to commit to taking immediate action to build Alberta’s future by making a serious investment in our post-secondary education system.

“We can be proud of many aspects of our post-secondary education system, but Alberta’s investment in post-secondary education continues to lag behind many other provinces and countries, and that has had a negative impact on our ability to develop the full potential of all Albertans,” said Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “Alberta is still struggling with the 24% cuts in government funding seen in the 1990s, and despite modest increases in funding we have been investing less than 1% of our GDP on post-secondary education (the lowest in Canada).”

"In a time of unparalleled prosperity it is unacceptable that Alberta’s tuition levels are the fourth highest in Canada," added Steven Dollansky, University of Alberta Students Union VP External and representative of the Council of Alberta University Students. "Our student financial aid system is simply not meeting the high costs of obtaining an education in our province and far too many students are graduating with huge debt loads. We can and need to do better."

“If we expect to build a world-class post-secondary education system in this province, Alberta is going to have to commit the necessary resources now to hire more top-quality, full-time faculty and support staff, increase the number of graduate students, expand research programs, address the huge backlog of deferred maintenance, and provide realistic long-term operating funding to our public post-secondary institutions,” said Professor Peter McCormick, President of Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations.

“Quality does not come cheap, but there is no question that investment in a quality post-secondary education system will bring immense benefits, short and long term, to all Albertans. What we need now is the political will to go forward.”

“It is a shame that with such a skilled labour shortage in this province, we have to turn away so many qualified students from our institutions,” said Lisi Monro, representative from the Alberta Colleges and Technical Institutes Student Executive Council (ACTISEC) and VP of the Student Association at NAIT.

“For example, last year alone 1200 qualified welding students were turned away from NAIT. If Alberta is going to address the fact that we have one of the lowest participation rates in the country, we need to expand the system and address the many barriers that keep many under-represented communities from attending school.”

“We are calling upon concerned Albertans to challenge all political parties to commit to invest now to resolve the critical issues of affordability, quality and accessibility of our system,” adds Moore-Kilgannon. “With the election next month, all politicians need to hear from Albertans about how critical our post-secondary education system is to our economy and our quality of life.”

PIA is also hosting three public forums entitled Education and Alberta’s Future, featuring keynote speaker Dr Fraser Mustard (Lethbridge - January 29th, Calgary - January 30th and Edmonton January 31st).

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