Alberta universitites meet with Oberg

By Ryan Pelletier

On Fri., Oct. 22, University of Calgary Students’ Union President Rob South met with Alberta Minister of Learning Lyle Oberg to discuss post-secondary education issues.

"The meeting was reasonable," said South. "We had board chairs, administration and students together all addressing the same issue: that more ongoing funding is needed."

Also present were the SU presidents of the three other Alberta universities (Alberta, Lethbridge and Athabasca) and members from each school’s Board of Governors or Administration.

"There was discussion on ways the Department of Learning, post-secondary students, and the institutions can work together on issues like quality of education, accessibility for students to post-secondary [education] and how, perhaps, to make the process more flexible," said Alberta Learning Spokesperson Ed Greenberg. "The student financial side came up during the discussion recently, and this is the pressures that students face and certainly the minister, in cooperation with the students, wants to look at ways of reducing the pressure on students."

Particular issues included post-secondary funding and accessibility. According to South, with students facing rising tuition and increasing debt upon graduation, these meetings are the first steps in the right direction for both the university and provincial government.

The minister listened to the combined concerns of administration and students.

"This meeting is one step in the government lobbying pitch we are trying to create," remarked South. "It is a continuing effort by our university to at least provide a united pitch. It is important to move beyond the Animal House image of students who drink all the time and really don’t know what’s going on. Through a stronger and more professional image, we can move forward the needs of our students."

According to Greenberg, the minister was receptive and is moving to create a link to the university to eventually address accessibility.

"[Oberg] wanted to hear what South had to say," said Greenberg. "The minister affirmed his commitment to an accessibility study for post-secondary education. He definitely made his commitment that this was going to take place."
South had a mixed reaction.

"The minister was listening well," he said. "He didn’t disregard anything we said. Things went as I expected they would. I had hoped for a more positive "yes, I’ll address the issue of funding" [from Oberg], which we didn’t directly hear. Sometimes it takes time to change the mindset of government."

Both parties agreed to continue talks and move in a positive direction. This meeting may lead to the implementation of some serious legislation or future programs to make students’ financial life easier. However, everything is still in the development stage.

"Working together externally to gain more funding has to be a priority," remarked South. "If we can work together to gain funding, it’s a win-win situation."

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