Federal minister on education

U of C students discussed post-secondary education with Jane Stewart on Tue., Mar. 12. The Minister of Human Resources Development Canada was in Calgary to announce funding for seven new skills and learning projects in the city, and discussed recommendations by the Canadian Alliance of Student Association at the university.

“One of the reasons we are here was to thank them for the very, very professional lobbying job they do every year,” said Stewart. “The recommendations made by CASA were significantly reflected in the budget.”

Among the items CASA lobbied for were increases in allowable in-school income, student loan debt reductions, and increased research funding.

“We had a very good discussion today about what steps are needed to ensure the future of post-secondary education in Canada,” said CASA Government Relations Co-ordinator Rob South. “Post-secondary education is a very good investment, but the investment doesn’t pay off right away, it takes a few years.”

Students’ Union President Matt Stambaugh echoed South’s call for more education funding, citing the importance of the post-secondary system.

“What we see is the post-secondary system taking on more characteristics of the K-12 system, where you need a post-secondary education to apply for quality jobs,” said Stambaugh.

Stewart said 75 per cent of all new jobs created in Canada require some form of post-secondary education and recognizes the value of post-secondary education in a knowledge-based economy. She reaffirmed the federal government’s support.

“You will see a continued and directed focus on post-secondary education,” said Stewart. “We will be looking at the greater issue of loans and access, and different ways for government who are partners in success, and legislation to support students.”

South suggested that separating education transfer funding from the Canada Social Transfer would encourage provinces to spend more on education, as was the case when health transfers were spearated from the fund. Stewart agreed that more work could be done with provinces to improve post-secondary funding.

“We want the federal government to work with provinces on a comprehensive strategy to get funding for education, and for student debt to be dealt with in a national way,” said Stewart.

While Stamgaugh appreciates new initiatives that allow students to more gracefully manage education debt, he said the focus should be to reduce tuition.

“If we can get tuition back to reasonable amounts, we wouldn’t have problems with the student loan program,” said Stambaugh. “What the federal government can do in future is to have an accountable transfer program, with funding back to provinces, back to levels where it should be.”

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