While Alberta continues to be a leader in Canada’s economic growth, current oil price forecasts will undoubtedly have an impact on how the provincial government decides to allocate funding in Budget 2015.
Public funding in post-secondary education sees one of the highest returns on investment for both government and taxpayers of any sector receiving provincial government funding. Beyond the benefit to the individual student, there are also tremendous benefits to society, as university graduates have been shown to use fewer government services, are among the most productive and innovative members of society, and have also been shown to contribute the most in income taxes compared to citizens that did not receive a post-secondary credential.
While cuts to post-secondary institutions in the 2013 budget continue to have an impact, CAUS is hopeful that the promise Premier Jim Prentice made during the leadership race to restore the remainder of the funding cut in 2013 will be realized in Budget 2015. Additionally, we hope that other key investments are made to build a strong post-secondary system for our province, ensuring Alberta’s continued prosperity.
For Budget 2015, CAUS recommends the following:
- Removing the loopholes in the Tuition and Fee Regulation, ensuring a true tuition cap that limits increases solely to CPI and keeps post-secondary education within the ability of all Alberta students to attend.
- Putting the tuition cap back into the Post-Secondary Learning Act.
- Providing ongoing support in the amount of $3 million a year in student mental health funding to the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, the University of Lethbridge, and expanding the program to also include MacEwan University and Mount Royal University.
- Creating a student and graduate employment program that offers meaningful job opportunities to current students and recent graduates.
- Immediately restoring $100 million in operating funding to Alberta post- secondary institutions, and encouraging individual institutions to eliminate existing Mandatory Non-Instructional Fees.
- Taking $17 million of the funding currently going towards the Completion Incentive Grant program, and reallocating it to targeted, up-front, needs- based grants for Alberta learners.
- Establishing an $18 million bursary program to assist Aboriginal, rural, and low-income students to attend post-secondary, and improve the participation rates amongst these underrepresented groups.
The Government of Alberta is currently reviewing the funding framework for post-secondary institutions in our province. The funding framework is an allocation device used to distribute base or core funding, for which there are four general models used in distributing funding to university institutions: enrolment based funding, lump sum funding, output-based funding, and funding based on achieving contractual targets. Almost all provinces in Canada use more than one type of funding mechanism.
As part of our work as students in understanding the models that exist in their purest forms as well as what direction we would like to see the government proceed when reviewing the existing funding framework for Alberta post-secondary institutions CAUS has written a report titled Funding Frameworks – Understanding the methods used to finance PSE in Canada. If you are interested in reading the full report you can download it using the link at the bottom of this page.
The following recommendations arise from the report:
- Provinces should adopt a multi-year perspective
- An environment should be created where private giving and the entrepreneurial activities of institutions is solely to provide a “margin of excellence”
- The overarching principles should be assessed carefully
- An optimal policy would increase quality or enrolment while holding the level of overall university funding constant, not a funding rule that depends solely on the enrolment levels
- The funding mechanisms should be few and simple
- Institutions should work in collaboration with the provincial governments to establish an acceptable joint response
On June 4th, 2012, Premier Alison Redford released her mandate letter to cabinet ministers. Among the ambitious goals presented in the letter to all Ministers, is closing the participation gap between underrepresented groups in post-secondary. One way of achieving this impressive goal is through a new bursary program, announced during the last provincial election, aimed at rural and aboriginal students. The project would start in 2013/14 with $18 million and would gradually increment to $25 million by 2021/22. The goal of this paper is to look at how to best utilize the money from this new bursary. Specifically the questions are: Who gets to access the bursary? How to deliver it? And what’s the best form and size of the award?
- Alberta Enterprise and Advanced Education work with Alberta Education to better prepare students in K-12 for University and College admission, educational success, and work habits.
- Applying for the new bursary becomes a part of the same application as student loans.
- Limit the eligibility of the new bursary to rural students living in areas under 10,000 in population.
- Allow North American Indian, Treaty/Registered/Status Indian, Non-Status Indian, Métis or Inuit, who self identify in student loans application, access to the bursary.
- Allow students to be eligible for the bursary for up to four years of post- secondary education, in programs that are at least 2 years of length.
- The size of the award should be $2,500 for rural students, and $4,000 for aboriginal students per academic year.
Recognizing education as a solution to many of our social issues is essential to any Social Policy Framework. The benefits of education, especially post-secondary, are well documented, spanning from improved income and health, to increased participation in the community. Although Alberta’s post-secondary institutions are world leaders, too often access to our own system is blocked to those from the lowest income brackets.
We are suggesting three approaches of integrating post-secondary education into Alberta’s Social Policy Framework: improving the opportunities of under-represented groups in our post-secondary education to attend; improving the opportunities of students already in our system to succeed and complete their programs; and increase the opportunities of those who graduate from our post-secondary system to lead their communities and give back to their society. All of which speak to the theme of harnessing the full potential of our province by increasing our post-secondary participation rate, at present the lowest in Canada.
Following the beginnings of economic recovery, Alberta is facing new challenges and opportunities. Across our country Canadians are talking about the role universities and university students are going to play in our society. From the streets of Montreal to the recent Alberta election post-secondary education is being talked about as the long-term solution to securing our potential as a world leader.
Students’ unions worked hard in the last election to get students out to vote, ensuring that their voice would be heard on April 23. As government returns to work, we look forward to implementing the government’s mandate with an eye to improving Alberta’s post-secondary participation rate, which currently is the lowest in Canada.
Student leaders are similarly eager to get down to work, having just finished our elections on campus and new councils being sworn in on May 1.
Our priorities this year are:
- Restoring the provincial tuition cap
- Regulating mandatory non-instructional fees
- Removing the barriers to student voting
- Increasing post-secondary participation among rural and aboriginal Albertans
- Eliminating property taxes on residences
A coalition of post-secondary education stakeholders including CAUS have commissioned a poll that indicates Albertans view the province’s post-secondary education system as fuelling economic growth, improving the quality of the health-care system, addressing labour shortages and strengthening communities.
The fact that a majority of Albertans say that the provincial government should spend more money on our post-secondary system underlines the degree of broad public support for post-secondary education.
The poll also indicates that Albertans are concerned about financial barriers to accessing post-secondary: mounting student debt loads and escalating costs were a concern for nearly two-thirds of respondents, and 61% of parents indicated that they were worried about how they would pay for their child’s education.
Our province stands at an important crossroads, one where the decisions we take today will have an enormous impact in the decades to come on choices facing our economy and our society. Our education system, from kindergarten all the way to post-secondary education is at the heart of many of those choices.
The upcoming provincial election and dialogue within our communities offer the perfect opportunity to talk about where our post-secondary education system is going, how it is inspiring Albertans to reach their potential and the needed supports and resources that are required to fulfill the promise of a post-secondary education that is high-quality, affordable, and accessible.
We met with decision-makers from across the province to reinforce that need, and provide solutions.
- Establish a goal to raise Alberta’s post-secondary education participation rate to the highest in Canada within the decade.
- Reduce post-secondary education costs and make clear the rules around student fees.
- Take steps to reduce the student debt of graduates and to increase upfront grants for students.
Alberta is a province with tremendous opportunity: our provincial government is debt free; we have unparalleled natural resources and beauty; and we have an economy that has weathered the economic downturn, ready to lead Canada in growth. Our post-secondary system is an important part of that opportunity and is well-placed to help overcome the challenges that we face.
Today, Alberta has the lowest post-secondary participation rate in Canada; fewer Albertans go on to formal education than in any other province. This budget is the right moment to work on a goal we have been talking about for the past year: to improve our post-secondary participation rate.
- Set more ambitious targets and develop additional measures in the business plan.
- Establish an arms-length agency to develop research on our post-secondary system.
- Increase non-repayable student financial aid through upfront grants.
- Reduce the debt of successful graduates by 50% of the provincial portion of their loan.
- Increase operating funds to institutions over three years.
Alberta has the highest non-instructional mandatory fees in Canada, at $818 on top of tuition for the average undergraduate. This is due in large part to imposition of new fees at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary of $290 and $450 a year respectively. Those increases are permitted due to the government’s lax rules surrounding new fees.
The Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) believes the Government of Alberta should immediately pass a regulation that covers non-instructional fees, providing limits and collegial mechanisms to govern the creation and increase of those fees, as well as a clear delineation between fees governed by the Tuition Fee Policy and those that are not.
Joint Proposal from AGC, ASEC and CAUS on Fees
Why Referenda is the Best Method of Setting Fees
Setting the Rules on Fees
Voting is the basis of our democracy, the political act that gives the actions of the government their legitimacy and power. Unfortunately our most recent provincial election saw only 40.6% of eligible voters coming out to the polls and even fewer young Albertans. The democratic system itself is partially to blame for this poor turnout, particularly among post-secondary students. There are numerous barriers for students to get through in order to vote.
Fortunately, there are some clear and easy changes that the Government of Alberta and Elections Alberta can do before the next provincial election to make it easier for post-secondary students to vote. The Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS), representing students at the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, and the University of Lethbridge are making five recommendations to break down the barriers to voting by Alberta’s post-secondary students.
- Allow students to choose between their home during studies and their family home to be their ordinary residence;
- Establish advance voting stations for multiple constituencies on post-secondary campuses;
- Permit advance voting for all electoral divisions at any returning office as well as at any advance voting station;
- Select returning officers earlier in the electoral process; and
- Have Elections Alberta and individual returning officers work with students’ unions to increase communications with students and encourage voter turnout among students.