The Government of Alberta released the annual reports for all 24 ministries including Alberta Advanced Education and Technology today. The report shows that Alberta is still making the grade when it comes to increasing access to Alberta’s post-secondary system.
Albertans were surveyed on whether they were satisfied that “adult Albertans can access education or training” and 25% of Albertans said no, which is up from 21% just one year ago. Alberta continues to have the lowest post-secondary participation rate in Canada, with only 17% of Albertans between 18-34 years old attending a post-secondary institution. Next door in British Columbia it is 23%.
Those who do get in are graduating with unacceptable levels of debt, with the average debt-to-income ratio well above the target set in the 2009 Business Plan.
Alberta has a plan to increase the number of spaces by 14,445 spaces by 2019, and for many those spaces cannot come quickly enough. It is also important that those spaces are well-funded, of the highest quality and are accessible and affordable to all qualified Albertans.
CAUS has a clear set of priorities intended to improve our participation rate and increase access to our universities. Those priorities are:
- Regulating non-instructional fees;
- Putting the Tuition Fee Policy into legislation;
- Increasing base operating grants to institutions;
- Increasing grants, bursaries and scholarships; and
- Making elections more accessible to students.
If you want to read the 2009/10 Alberta Advanced Education and Technology annual report you can download it here and if you want to read more about CAUS’ priorities in addressing these concerns you can look here.
Municipal elections will be held across Alberta on October 18, 2010 and Students’ Unions are making sure their students will have access to the resources needed to make an informed decision.
The University of Calgary Students’ Union has been laying the groundwork all summer for their iVote campaign, which is encouraging students to vote through candidate forums, advance polling stations and getting the information out to student on how to successfully cast their ballot. The mayoral forum, with all major candidates expected to appear, will happen tomorrow evening, Sept. 29 at 7:30pm in Mac Hall at the U of C.
The University of Lethbridge Students’ Union and the University of Alberta Students’ Union are also taking the initiative to inform their students and the greater community. The U of A Students’ Union is co-hosting a forum tomorrow night with Edmonton’s Next Gen Committee. The event starts at 6:30pm and is at the Myer Horowitz Theatre. The University of Lethbridge Students’ Union is hosting a mayoral forum in Lethbridge on Thursday in the University Hall Atrium at noon.
Regardless of where in Alberta you live, make sure you take the time to get out and vote on October 18!
We have been working on some research all summer, looking at the various referenda that have happened on our campuses since the 1970s. This came out of a conversation about how good a judge students are of fees that are proposed, and what would happen to student fees if Alberta moved to a referendum-only model of creating new fees or increasing existing ones.
Out of 82 different referenda at our three campuses we see that students approved 62 of them, or 76%. The services that these fees pay for vary but interestingly students seem willing to hear out the case, find out the necessary information and make a decision.
Also of interest was how students handled questions of lowering fees. Five referenda went to students at the University of Calgary and one at the University of Alberta calling for lowering fees and two actually failed – the elimination of the Bears and Pandas Legacy Fund at the University of Alberta and the reduction of a fee for Student Legal Assistance at the University of Calgary.
Ultimately, referenda represent the best and most legitimate means for approving a new fee or increasing an existing one. Take a look at our two documents on the topic and learn more.
Our sister organization the Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations (CAFA) announced the winners of its annual Distinguished Academic Awards last week and we are happy to congratulate Dr. Carole Estabrooks from the University of Alberta and Dr. Paul Hayes from the University of Lethbridge on their outstanding work at Alberta’s universities.
Dr. Estabrooks is a professor in the Faculty of Nursing and a Canada Research Chair in Knowledge Transition at the University of Alberta. Her research on the practical health care outcomes and better delivery of health care has received international attention along with millions of dollars in research that is advancing our knowledge in health care.
Dr. Hayes teaches in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Lethbridge and has been researching organometallic chemistry – which is advancing our knowledge of preparing “green” polymers from renewable sources, such as corn. He graduated with a PhD from the University of Calgary just six years ago, but as already made his mark in academia here in Alberta and should be considered one of our rising stars.
Both Dr. Hayes and Dr. Estabrooks are fantastic examples of how important it is that the faculty at our universities not only be superb educators, but also be on the leading edge of discovery within their disciplines. To better attract and support faculty members CAUS is calling on the Government of Alberta to increase the Campus Alberta Grant to institutions as a part of our annual budget recommendations.
As Duncan mentioned in an earlier post, today is the Battle of Alberta as the University of Alberta Golden Bears take on the University of Calgary Dinos. Yes, the Golden Bears may be coming off two in a row and have the momentum coming into the game but the Dinos will be their toughest competition yet.
It’s the perfect day for a little bit of friendly competition among CAUS members and among our universities. The VP External at the University of Alberta Students’ Union and Chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, Aden Murphy and myself are placing our bets.
The winner of today’s game will be rewarded with a case of their favorite beer by the other. If Aden takes it home I will be delivering a case of Trois-Pistoles for Mr. Chair. When the Dinos do win, Aden will be getting me a case of Calgary’s very own Wild Rose WRaspberry Ale. I hope you all can tune into the game over the radio or see it live. Let the Battle of Alberta and the bet of the chairs begin! Oh and don’t let me forget, GO DINOS!
Photo by D’Arcy Norman
The undefeated University of Alberta Golden Bears football team are playing host to the University of Calgary Dinos this afternoon. The Dinos are coming off a great season where they made it all the way to the Vanier Cup, losing to the Queen’s Golden Gaels in the final game. The Bears have won both games so far this season, so it promises to be a great match-up.
Campus athletics are an important part of campus life for many of Alberta’s university students, either as team members or fans, and makes up an integral part of the campus community. They are also often overlooked when you think of what makes up a great university in Alberta. Campuses are so much more than collections of classrooms, assignments, students and faculty – they are places beyond scholarly inquiry that form integral components of our province’s community – from the arts to medicine, from business to public service, from libraries to athletics.
Campus athletics are supported by the whole campus community – university administration, alumni, fans, the Government of Alberta and students through fees approved by referendum all contribute to our athletics teams and their facilities.
You can visit all three of our members’ athletics teams at:
And if you are in Edmonton at 1:00pm today, you can head to Taylor Field and check out the action yourself. Otherwise, you can listen to the game on AM 770 online.
Statistics Canada reported that tuition and fees at Canadian universities are on the rise, with Alberta above the national average in both categories. Average undergraduate tuition in Alberta is now $5,318, a 1.5% increase from last year. More worrying is Alberta’s $818 in average non-instructional fees which leaves the province’s students paying the highest non-instructional fees in the country. In 2010 these fees went up by $183, the largest increase in Canada.
“The cost of university education in Alberta is too high,” said Hardave Birk, chair of the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) and VP External at the University of Calgary Students’ Union. “With Canada’s lowest post-secondary participation rate we need to be doing more to reduce financial barriers to education rather than hiking the cost.”
The new figures for tuition are calculated before market adjustments in six programs take effect at the University of Alberta and University of Calgary in September 2011. Those increases are between 15% and 65%. All other programs in Alberta are limited to an increase tied to the consumer price index at 0.35%.
In contrast, Alberta’s non-instructional fees that Statistics Canada is reporting as the Canada’s highest at $818 a year have no limits and no regulation. Both the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta instituted new non-instructional fees this September of $150 and $290 respectively.
“These fees are just a workaround the tuition cap, and they should not be decided without student approval. We are demanding the government put rules around these fees and that they have to go to student referendum for approval,” said Birk.
Statistics Canada’s release on tuition and fees is available at http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/100916/dq100916a-eng.htm.
The CAUS proposal to end provincial tuition and education tax credits included in our budget recommendations has received a fair amount of attention lately. That might make some sense – after all it is not everyday that students call for the government to end a program.
We believe that few students, if any, come to university just because they receive a tax credit. But what we do know is that many Albertans never go to post-secondary education because of financial reasons. Alberta has the third highest tuition in the country so it is no wonder that some are being left out because of money – in fact Alberta has the lowest post-secondary participation rate in Canada.
What is key to our proposal is that up-front grants represent the best way to get students into university, to reduce those barriers that Albertans find when trying to get a degree. Tax credits may be nice when you are filling out your return in March but do little to pay your tuition when you need it in September.
Shifting resources from tax credits to up-front grants is only a part of our proposal to re-invest in post-secondary education. Alberta’s universities and their graduates are where Alberta’s future prosperity lies and we need to make a priority in the upcoming provincial budget.
CAUS is happy to launch its new website! Included within our new site is all of the features of our old one, including all of our publications, political policies and our most recent news releases. As well, we will be able to highlight the issues we are working on and the issues facing our students. Not to mention we will be interacting better, through our blog and our new Twitter account, @CAUS.
Stay tuned as we continue to add content here, blog regularly and gear up for what is sure to be an exciting time in Alberta’s legislature and at our universities.