FYI: The Provincial Budget and Post-Secondary Education

 

 

On Thursday, March 23, the Alberta provincial government delivered its 2018-19 budget. Part of the budget addressed post-secondary education (PSE).  Essentially, the budget distributes money to various aspects of the public sector, including PSE. Here is a summary of what is promised. 

 

General announcements:

  • A two per cent funding increase to PSE operating budgets (Campus Alberta Grant), from 5.5 to 6.1 $billion

  • Continue the domestic tuition freeze for the fourth year; provide $17 million in “backfill” to cover the effects of the freeze (No mention is made of freezing international fees or of the eventual elimination of tuition and all other student fees)

  • Salary reviews of post-secondary executives

  • $670 million for student loans; $246 million for student awards, grants and scholarships

  • $641 million for PSE infrastructure (Note: Long underfunded)

 

Specific allotments:

 

  • $30 million in capital finds to replace a critical campus electrical in danger of failing (provides power to University Hospital, Cross Cancer, Jubilee Auditorium)

  • $6 million to begin creating 3000 new post-secondary seats in technology-based programs

  • $7 million for scholarships in emerging sectors such as life sciences, clean technology

  • $8 million for student mental health funding

  • $11 million for indigenous student supports

  • $31 million for apprenticeship delivery

  • $94 million for Foundation Learning Supports, e.g., ESL, academic upgrading

 

While the additional financial supports are welcome, some major PSE funding issues that have been raised many times over the years are not dealt with in the budget.  Three key ones are:

  • Increased funding that actually meets the needs of the PSEs, including the return of federal funding (transfer payments) to previous levels

  • A stable predictable funding “formula”, rather than a “surprise” announcement every year as to how much the Campus Alberta Grant will increase or decrease

  • Cancellation of all current student loan debt

 

Other important issues linked to the budget and PSE which need to be addressed include:

  • The right to education enshrined in legislation to ensure universal accessibility

  • Elimination of corporate influence over academic decision-making

  • A more democratic administrative structure whereby those who teach, research, and provide support have meaningful input into decision-making

  • Security, benefits, and pensions for all, including precarious academic labourers

 

 

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