Students left out… of budget cuts

In a scene reminscent of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Alberta Finance Minister Pat Nelson strode to the podium.

Alberta’s most recent provincial budget, released Tue., March 19, was chock full of cuts, increased taxes and had anyone involved in post-secondary education shaking in their boots-but only a little bit.

"Surprisingly, education didn’t take a hit in the ‘Bad News Budget,’" said incoming University of Calgary Students’ Union President Matt Stambaugh. "I think our lobbying efforts through [the Council of Alberta University Students] were successful in maintaining PSE as a key issue at the provincial level."

One small victory for CAUS was the extension of the Jason Lang Scholarship to students entering their fourth year of studies. Other budgetary items benefiting students include increasing maximum student loans awards by the rate of inflation and a three per cent increase to universities’ base operating budgets.

"The provincial government is good at announcing things multiple times," said SU Vice-President External and CAUS Chair Oliver Bladek, as these initiatives were merely confirmations of earlier commitments.

K to 12 education has been at the forefront of the provincial agenda of late as a result of the teachers’ dispute, something that may have helped post-secondary education escape the axe of fiscal responsibility.
"I think CAUS made the message clear to the Tory caucus that education is a priority and it should not be cut," said Bladek. "For all intents and purposes the public agrees with us."

Even though post-secondary escaped relatively unscathed from this budget, problems with edu-cation in Alberta are deeper and more complex according to SU President Barb Wright.

"I think there is a problem in the structure of having K to 12 and post-secondary in the same ministry as they tend to compete for attention," she explained. "It seems like a zero sum game."

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