CAUS forum on post-secondary education

A crowd of 30 Calgarians listened to stakeholders discuss the future of post-secondary education at on Thu., Mar. 6. Panelists included lobbyists and stakeholders in post-secondary education.

Parent Joanne Cuthbertson, representing Albertans Promoting Public Education and Learning, felt that discussion about tuition issues has not sufficiently involved parents.

“As parents, we have been under some assumptions about accessibility of post-secondary education,” said Cuthbertson. “We thought that in a place like Alberta any student who wants to attend post-secondary education will have a path open to them. We have learned that assumption was in error.”

Cuthbertson stated that restrictions on accessibility results in loss of human potential, decreases educational efficiency and forces young people to choose degree programs earlier in their academic careers.

Alberta Union of Public Employees Local 52 Chair Dan Tilleman, representing U of C support workers (many of whom have children who attend this university) had similar concerns.

“Access and affordability are rapidly becoming serious issues for average Calgarians in obtaining a university education,” said Tilleman. “Stated in simple terms, most parents think that their little Johnny will be going to the U of C when he finishes K-12, but given the current levels of provincial base funding, he most likely won’t have that opportunity. As Calgarians we should all be very upset with the fact that the provincial government has not provided Calgary’s university with the funding necessary to continue with the level and breadth of affordable education that the Calgary community has come to expect and need.”

Concerns for the future of post-secondary education in the community were shared by The University of Calgary Faculty Association President Dr. John Baker.

“If we are to have a future with diverse ways of making a living, we need high-quality research, high-quality teachers in high-quality universities with access to high-quality libraries here in Alberta,” said Baker. “We can’t rely on importing our professionals from other provinces and countries.”

He continued to say that to retain professionals, Calgary requires an intellectually-rich environment.

Students’ Union President Matt Stambaugh agreed that well-funded post-secondary education should be readily available and supported in Calgary but had concerns about quality.

“Students are paying more for less in the post-secondary education system in Alberta,” said Stambaugh. “We’re being asked to pay more to get less.”

U of C Associate Vice-President Student Affairs Dr. Peggy Patterson said the link between price and quality is less clear.

“Part of the challenge is the metric,” said Patterson. “What we’re trying to do here is evaluate quality from the perspective of the learner in both short-term and long-term outcome in terms of employment, salaries, etc.”

The panel discussion was sponsored by the SU and the Council of Alberta University Students.

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