EDMONTON—Public Interest Alberta is challenging the Klein government to take us "Back to the Future" by committing to support post-secondary education to the same level they found it in 1993.
It is reported that today's Speech from the Throne will provide more details about the plans for post-secondary education. In particular, Bill 1, the "Access to the Future Act", will establish an endowment fund within the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund to support post-secondary education.
"The first step on the road to the future is in at least restoring support for post-secondary education (PSE) to what existed before the Klein government was elected," says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. "While we applaud the government for recognizing the urgent need to invest in our post-secondary education system, we want to see all the details of the plan before determining if they have made the mark."
The heart of the matter is the system is in crisis today because the funding for PSE has not keep pace with inflation and increased enrollment. Since 1993 government funding to post secondary education has in real terms decreased 28% per full-time student while university tuition has increased by 183% and college and technical institute tuition has increased by 250%.
The recent announcement of an projected increase in enrollment by 5000 a year for the next three years is no different than what we have averaged over the last few years. Government statistics indicate that the full load equivalent (FLE) at Alberta universities, colleges and technical institutes were 120,775 in 2000- 2001, 125,522 in 2001- 2002 and 132,360 in 2002- 2003. (The government is saying in their press materials that we currently have approximately 140,000 FLE in the 2004-2005 year.)
This increase in enrollment and decrease in funding has resulted in cuts to programs and operations, increased class sizes and reduced access for students. The universities, colleges and technical institutes are calling for a minimum increase in base funding of 10%, saying that an increase of 6% will only keep pace with increased operating costs.
The proposed endowment fund, which will provide approximately 50 million dollars annually for every billion dollars put into the fund, will therefore not resolve the serious issues facing PSE.
"We will hopefully learn today if the Klein government is up to the challenge to restore support for PSE to the level they found it. Before we can see the future for post-secondary education, they will need to first get us out of the hole that has been created over the past 12 years," says Moore-Kilgannon.
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