Ralph Klein has gone and it is time to retire Ralph's World. Thanks to all of you who have supported this venture by contributing material and through your comments. It has been fun.

Should we get another blog underway? Let me know your thoughts by e-mailing me at johnnyslow@gmail.com.

John Slow
January 1, 2007

Monday, February 07, 2005

An education on education costs 

Martha’s Monthly February 2005.

In the middle of January
a report was released by the Canada West Foundation about the critical shortage of skilled workers in the West. Martha heard about the report on the news and wondered aloud to Henry whether it might be the right time for her to head back to University in order to retrain for one of those skilled positions. Martha has been thinking about getting another degree ever since she finished her first one when 867-5309 was a hit song, not just a phone number.

Well Henry and Martha sat down and started to work out the finances of going back and well, frankly, she was a little shocked. There may be a skilled worker shortage but that has not lowered the tuition rates a bit. The average cost for eight months of post secondary education is $9,740. The average amount in Student Loans in this province is $4,284/year. Since 1989 student loan financing in Alberta has increased 61% while tuition rates since 1990 have increased 273%.

Martha started to wonder how any student does it. Maybe that is why that Canada West Foundation report made their first recommendation to “
increase financial resources for post-secondary education”. Just a few months ago the Calgary Chamber of Commerce released its own report about how Alberta should handle its debt free status and recommended: “To maintain its competitive advantage, Alberta must prioritize resources to provide increased access to post-secondary education…” (Read it here)

Now Martha couldn’t remember the last time she agreed with both the Canada West Foundation AND the Chamber of Commerce but it seemed there was some common ground here when it comes to the issue of financing of post secondary education. Martha decided to find out what the Alberta Government was doing about these issues and she found that t
he MLA Post-Secondary Funding Review Committee was created in March 2000 to report on post secondary funding. Their report recommended a revision of the Tuition Fee Policy that caps tuition at 30% of net operating expenses for an institution. The report points out that “many institutions are now approaching the 30% ceiling”. It goes on: “Alberta now has one of the highest average tuition fees in Canada…(and) any changes to the Tuition Fee Policy should be consistent with the government’s general accessibility strategy and be reflected in the design of its student loan, grant, and remission programs.”

Martha was pleasantly surprised to find the report was concerned about tuition increases and made it clear that increases in tuition must be met with increases in loans and grants. But it seems that this report has been shelved. What has the government done to ensure that Albertans who are qualified to attend post secondary institutions are financially able to? Well, not much. The Canadian Federation of Students collected
studies of the barriers that tuition fees create. Among the reports is one that 70% of high school graduates that did not go on to post secondary education cite financial reasons and 60% of the drop in part time students can be attributed to tuition fees.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect these dots. Alberta needs a skilled labour force. Students don’t attend post secondary education if tuition is too high and loans do not cover the costs. So, if we want a skilled (and educated) labour force we need to invest in their education by dropping tuition fees, increasing student loans to match the cost of living, and provide grants to students who qualify. Let’s ask our government to follow their own committee report that said as much.

Please send the following letter to Premier Klein (
premier@gov.ab.ca) and the Minister of Advanced Education Dave Hancock (edmonton.whitemud@assembly.ab.ca). CC your email to Alberta Liberal leader Kevin Taft (Edmonton.riverview@assembly.ab.ca) and Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason (newdemocrats@assembly.ab.ca and Alison.Crawford@assembly.ab.ca) as well as us at marthasmonthly@yahoo.ca.

Premier Klein

Alberta Legislature

February 8, 2005

Dear Premier Klein:

I am one of the Marthas of Martha’s Monthly and this month I am writing to you on the issue of affordable access to post secondary education. There is a significant difference between the rate of tuition increases over the last 15 years and the increases of student loans. This lack of affordability causes an alarming number of our daughters and sons to not enter post secondary education. In an economy that needs highly skilled workers the price tag of this education must be more reasonable. Alberta faces a critical shortage of skilled labourers in the coming decade so investments must be made now to allow any qualified student in Alberta to afford a post secondary education.

Please freeze tuition increases immediately and convene an All-Party Committee of MLAs to report on a reasonable tuition roll back to take effect by September 2005. Please see that student financing increases match tuition costs and the real cost of living in Alberta’s cities. These steps could form the beginning of your government’s response to industry’s concerns over critical skilled labour shortages. Lowered tuition fees would also form a wonderful cornerstone to celebrations of the Centennial this year. It would show that your government is looking forward by investing in students today.


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