EDMONTON – Members of Public Interest Alberta’s Post-Secondary Education Task Force held a meeting with the Honourable Marlin Schmidt, Minister of Advanced Education, earlier today to discuss priorities for Alberta’s post-secondary education system.
The discussion points for the meeting included the need for affordable tuition so that post-secondary education is accessible to everyone, regardless of socioeconomic situation, including more grants for low-income, rural, and Indigenous students to ensure our universities and colleges are truly open to all.
“A thriving and successful Alberta needs a post-secondary education system that opens its doors to students from all walks of life, not just the ones who can afford it,” said Joel French, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “This is why we need a legislated cap on tuition fees, tighter rules for institutions on mandatory non-instructional fees, and more controls on international student fees.”
The Task Force also highlighted the need for transparent governance of post-secondary institutions to focus on the public interest, particularly around institutions’ Boards of Governors.
“The small numbers of students, faculty, and staff that can sit on the boards of post-secondary institutions limits our decision-making input,” said Ken Heather, Vice-President External of Alberta College & Institutes Faculties Association (ACIFA). “Greater representation from these groups would allow for more open and transparent communication regarding the operation of these institutions. We need rules to make boards more accountable to the government and the public at large for how they do business, as they are responsible for the expenditure of public funding.”
Also a concern for the Task Force was the need for sustainable and predictable funding of post-secondary education, eliminating the guessing game surrounding annual funding of institutions resulting in more stable programs and staffing.
“Providing predictable and stable funding to universities ensures they can continue to offer quality education and services to students and keeps the cost of attending universities manageable for families,” says Quinn Benders, Vice-President of the Non-Academic Staff Association (NASA) at the University of Alberta. “We would encourage the government to ensure that administrations are accountable for their funding increases, being required to collaborate and report to government ensuring that funding is used towards these goals.”
“Consistent funding to our post-secondary system will lessen precarious employment of faculty and staff, which has been a pressing issue in our institutions across the province,” says Rosemary Read, Chair of AUPE Local 39, Support Staff at SAIT. “Ensuring stable funding for our staff and faculty will improve morale and workplace conditions in our post secondaries.”
Each of these priority areas are included in Public Interest Alberta’s recent publication, Priorities for Advancing the Public Interest. The full document can be downloaded at www.pialberta.org/priorities.
Joel French, Executive Director
Public Interest Alberta