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$3 billion for PSE endowment fund

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Alberta's post-secondary students have reason to rejoice this week, after the announcement of a new $3 billion endowment fund which will provide $123 million for PSE annually.

The announcement came during Lieutenant Governor Norman L. Kwong's Speech from the Throne at the first session of the Twenty Sixth Legislature, and is part of the Alberta government's Access to the Future Act, Bill 1. Kwong's speech was followed by legislation for the $3 billion endowment fund in addition to a $1 million increase in the Alberta Heritage Scholarship Fund and $500 million expansion of the Ingenuity Fund.

While many details about the endowment fund have not yet been released, it is clear that the fund will not be created over night. Instead, it will be added to from Alberta's future un-budgeted surpluses until it reaches its $3 billion goal. Alberta's Advance Education Minister Dave Hancock is optimistic about the time frame.

"Obviously it's hard to predict [how long it will take]," said Hancock. "But it's very doable in the next few years--it's our significant priority."

University of Calgary administration is happy with the announcement, but is also anticipating an increase to the university's base operating grant targeted to specific, but still undefined areas.

"It's a clear signal that the province is moving quickly to solve accessibility," said U of C Vice-President External Relations Roman Cooney, referring to Bill 1's focus on accessibility in Alberta. "We want to take more students, but we need to have the capacity to have them."

U of C's Students' Union is also pleased with the announcement, and echoes administration's expectations of a base-operating grant increase.

"This is good news, this is two out of three for the Council of University Students," said SU President Bryan West, referring to CAUS's three goals which are a tuition freeze, an endowment fund and a base operating grant increase. "This is a positive step for all students and it continues to reflect the new reality [for post secondary education] in Alberta."

The endowment fund announcement builds on Premier Ralph Klein's commitment in early February to a tuition freeze for the 2005‑2006 school year and an increase to the number of post secondary seats in Alberta by 25,000 in three years, 30,000 in six years and 60,000 by the year 2020.

More details about the endowment fund and the future of PSE are expected with Alberta's forthcoming budget.

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