By Bryn Levy
In a televised address to the entire province on Tue., Feb. 9, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein outlined his government’s proposal to freeze tuition increases for the 2005/2006 school year at all post-secondary institutions in the province.
In addition, Premier Klein promised to create 15,000 new post-secondary spaces in Alberta over the next three years, with the goal of creating 60,000 new spaces by 2020. The announcements came as part of a package of initiatives meant to mark Alberta’s upcoming centennial.
“My message tonight to Alberta’s universities, colleges, and technical institutions is this: If you must increase tuitions, don’t send the bill to your students. Send it to us,” said Klein.
Klein also promised his government would have a new tuition policy in place for the years following the 2005/2006 academic year by the start of classes in September 2006.
“It will be the most innovative, entrepreneurial, and affordable tuition policy in the country.” One “that reflects the shared responsibility of students, parents, educators, and administrators,” remarked the Premier.
The proposed tuition freeze and new spaces generally received a positive response from stakeholders on campus, as they imply a commitment to increased funding for the ailing University of Calgary.
“If the bills are going to them, then they’re obviously going to be putting more money in–this is a huge win for students,” noted Students’ Union President Bryan West.
Faculty response has been positive, if somewhat guarded.
“We like the idea of what is effectively a tuition freeze, and more spaces, but we had hoped to see more details on increases to the base-operating grant.” said The University of Calgary Faculty Association President Anton Colijn.
Graduate Students’ Association President Calvin Seaman was also cautiously optimistic.
“I’d like to see an actual freeze of tuition,” commented Seamnan. “I’m thankful to see the government pay for that one year, but I’d like to see an actual freeze or a rollback.”
Klein’s announcement comes after a decade of budget cuts and maximum tuition increases at all of Alberta’ post-secondary institutions. Representatives of the campus community at the U of C have indicated that the proposals, while significant, do not yet represent the final solution to the U of C’s financial woes.
“15,000 new spots in three years, what’s that going to mean?” asked West. “That’s going to mean a significant increase to the base-operating grant and to funding for capital projects. Not only do we need new profs, we need new infrastructure: actual physical space for the new students.”
TUCFA also indicated that while the proposed reforms are a sign of progress, they have not been finalized.
“I do want to follow-up and make sure that whatever materializes, actually happens and doesn’t come with too many strings attached.” said Colijn.