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The next leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party--and the premier of Alberta-- will be decided upon at the Tory party convention Sat., Nov. 25. With much of the last few months' debate focusing on healthcare and the environment, post-secondary education got lost along the way. To give students an idea of their new premier's stance on post-secondary education, the Gauntlet tracked down all eight busy candidates and asked them three questions to gauge where they stand.

Jim Dinning

What is your vision for PSE in Alberta?

"It's got to be maximum access. For every kid who graduates from an Alberta high school there has got to be a place."

What are your plans to make PSE affordable?

"We've got to have a good tuition policy. I think we've started down that track and we've got to make sure we've got a student finance system that increases the number of bursaries and scholarships for all students, especially low income students."

How do you plan to address the issue of quality in PSE?

"I want Alberta to be up there--our four universities--to be up there amongst the top in the world. We shouldn't take a back seat to anybody. We're going to invest in 50 research chairs, because if you get smart people to come to our institutions they attract more smart people, research dollars and students. That's how you invest in the quality."

Victor Doerkson

What is your vision for PSE in Alberta?

"Albertans should be global leaders with global solutions and that really starts with a good base of secondary and post-secondary; building off that we can become leaders, not only in Canada but in the rest of the world."

What are your plans to make PSE affordable?

"I think that once you factor in Alberta's scholarships, which leads the country, and our policy towards keeping the debt at a certain level when you graduate, we actually perform very well and are going to continue to do that. My commitment would be to continue to make sure that we have a competitive policy with the rest of the country."

How do you plan to address the issue of quality in PSE?

"I actually think we are doing pretty well. I think we are making great progress. We have a great system."

Dave Hanncock

What is your vision for PSE in Alberta?

"We need accessibility, quality and affordability. We need to move on the promise to create 60,000 new spaces and we probably need to move that up rather than stretch it out."

What are your plans to make PSE affordable?

"I've suggested that we make the first-year tuition free on a four-year program, and then be able to deduct the cost of your education as a tax credit over three years in rural Alberta, and five years in urban Alberta, after you've lived and worked in Alberta for three years."

How do you plan to address the issue of quality in PSE?

"That's about completing our commitment to the $3 billion in the Access to the Future Fund and then growing it over time to $10 billion because all the great universities in the world have huge endowment funds. So $10 billion isn't that huge for our whole post-secondary system."

Gary McPherson

What is your vision for PSE in Alberta?

"I think we can do a lot more with technology and we can do that through distance education. By hooking universities up with smaller centres, we can get the professorial expertise out into the rural areas so that kids don't have to go to their urban areas and spend a lot more money unless they want to do that."

What are your plans to make PSE affordable?

"We definitely have to reduce tuition fees. I think that a 15 per cent tuition fee is a reasonable amount. I think 30 per cent is prohibitive, particularly when you factor in the challenges with accommodation."

How do you plan to address the issue of quality in PSE?

"I think technology is the answer. With technology you can get a top-notch professor or lecturer from anywhere in the world and you can feed that person into the classroom."

Ted Morton

What is your vision for PSE in Alberta?

"I've dedicated 25 years of my adult life to education, and I have also been a professor at the University of Calgary as well, so education is clearly going to be one of my highest priorities. My vision is to combine quality and affordability with an emphasis on the liberal arts and science. The technical trades are important as well, but it is important for Alberta to have a balance with the arts and trades."

What are your plans to make PSE affordable?

"In terms of endowments, Alberta is currently behind. I believe we are ranked 9 out of 10 provinces in Canada for endowments. My plan is to increase our current per cent from 12.75 per cent to 20 per cent, which would put Alberta in first. This stream of income would not be on the backs of students. I'm committed to match dollar to dollar; for every private dollar, we would match it with a government dollar for these endowments."

"This endowment would not rely so much on short term legislation, like it does now. Because when it comes down to making decisions, politicians will always put healthcare and the K-12 system ahead of post-secondary education. I would make student loans available to students regardless of parental income. And loan repayments would be based on an income contingent. What this means is that for someone coming out of school with a bachelor of commerce making $30,000 in their first year, they would start paying off their loans immediately. But for someone in fine arts who might not make as much initially, these students would not have to pay off their debts right away."

How do you plan to address the issue of quality in PSE?

"The quality is essentially based on the endowments. Plus, schools in Alberta would get more financial autonomy. And these endowments would help in terms of professors too, which are called endowed professorships. It's not just important to maintain high numbers of professors, but it's also important to maintain the high quality professors, and this would be done through the same endowments."

Mark Norris

What is your vision for PSE in Alberta?

"We need to increase the funding to get the number of spaces we need so that we are not turning away kids. The second thing is that the tuition split right now is wrong, with students picking up 30 per cent and the government 70."

What are your plans to make PSE more affordable?

"We are looking at the kids who rack up huge student loans to get that education. We want them to stay in Alberta, so we put a program out that says if you stay in Alberta for five years, we'll forgive you 20 per cent of those five years until it's zero. And you have to stay for five years."

How do you plan to address the issue of quality in PSE?

"I know there are Canadian accredited standards and I think Alberta universities are some of the best in the world, so as long as we are following the standards I don't see any problem with it."

Lyle Oberg

What is your vision for PSE in Alberta?

"My vision is to have a system that is accessible, that has more spaces and that is absolutely the highest quality of any system in the world."

What are your plans to make PSE more affordable?

"I'm doing three things. First of all, I want to increase the number of spots by 30,000 by the year 2012, which would make it more accessible. I want to make the fourth year of tuition free for high achievers, those who are in the top 5-10 per cent. The third thing is that I want to ensure that student loans are available to everyone, regardless of parental income."

How do you plan to address the issue of quality in PSE?

"Quality is directly related to the students who are going there, and to the professors that are teaching. I would ensure that we get the best professors in the world to come to the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary and all of our post-secondary institutions. I take a page out of Texas' book, who back some 30 or 40 years ago, decided that with their oil money they would hire the 50 best people in the world to come to Texas, and they did. Subsequently, their quality improved significantly. We need to have a concerted effort to go beyond mediocrity and truly into excellence."

Ed Stelmach

What is your vision for PSE in Alberta?

"It's essentially increasing the spaces, but it's also finding people to teach the programs. We are forcing too many people into large centres, like Edmonton and Calgary, to access post-secondary. We now have the capacity in technology to push those programs out into smaller centres. The infrastructure is there."

What are your plans to make PSE affordable?

"Focusing on more bursaries and scholarships to reduce the cost for students. I just want to make sure that if we're working towards lowering tuition costs, the

benefit goes to the student, not to the university."

How do you plan to address the issue of quality in PSE?

"I thought the quality was pretty good. Of course, we do have some issues with high school completion which worries me, but in terms of the quality-both in the universities and especially in technical schools-we have real reasons to be proud of our accomplishments."

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