By Kim Stock
The Alberta Ministry of Learning announced a $25.9 million boost to 21 post-secondary institutions in the province last week.
A majority of the funding, which comes from the ministry’s Access Fund, will go toward the programs of nursing, health technology and information and communications technology (ICT) to increase spaces for students.
"The new funding provided will allow us to begin to increase our capacity in the programs earmarked for expansion," said University of Calgary Vice-president Academic Ron Bond.
The increased funding is good news for students wishing to enroll in the aforementioned areas.
"This follows our commitment to increase access to the post-secondary system by 1,200 student spaces by this September, and expand access to health programs and ICT-areas in which there is great marketplace demand for new graduates," said Learning Minister Lyle Oberg.
Learning Spokesperson Ed Greenberg added that the continuing prosperity of the province depends on an increase in highly-skilled graduates.
The U of C received approximately $1.7 million, in contrast to the almost $2 million allotted to the University of Lethbridge. The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology received approximately $3.4 million, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology roughly $3.2 million, and Mount Royal College cashed in with just over $4 million.
To assess the needs of the various post-secondary institutions, institutions submitted accessibility plans to the government. They outlinined areas that required assistance to expand student spaces.
"It was through the review of these accessibility plans under the Access Fund that funding and spaces were distributed to each institution throughout the province," said Greenberg.
The distribution of funding was targeted primarily at health and information and communications technologies. Some programs that fall under this category at the U of C include Engineering, Computer Science, Social Work and Nursing.
Bond stated that while the university looked to the government for assistance, there are still unfulfilled needs.
"One problem we will have to face is finding the space to accommodate the new students, faculty and staff who will join the U of C as a result of this expansion," stated Bond. "We have acute shortage of space on campus, and there is no new money here to help us address this problem."
While optimistic about the increase in student spaces and better class sizes, U of C Students’ Union Vice-president Academic Heather Clitheroe expressed concern for other faculties.
"While it’s important to recognize the role health and technology play in Alberta, I think there’s real danger in overlooking the value of the liberal and fine arts," she said. "Areas like the social sciences, the humanities, and the arts play a vital part in creating and sustaining literacy, cultural heritage, and new forms of expression. For the government to continue to pump funding into some areas and not others seems to say the Alberta doesn’t value liberal arts–and I think that’s a very dangerous statement to make."
Bond agreed with Clitheroe’s position.
"It has been demonstrated over and over again that many of the most successful contributors to society come from non-technological areas and have experienced a broad liberal arts education," he said. "We need to continue to press the government vigorously to be more inclusive in its re-investment in the university system."