Degrees = money

By Peter Stein

A new report says degrees leads to higher salaries, but student leaders feel the costs may inhibit lower-income students.

Last week, Alberta Learning released a report stating post-secondary education is one of the best investments students can make, especially if they reside in Alberta. The report concluded post-secondary graduates earn more money annually over their lifetime, experience less frequent and shorter periods of unemployment, and have improved health and better overall life prospects compared to those with only a high school diploma.

"There’s no doubt that post-secondary education is expensive, but there’s also no doubt that it’s worth every penny," said Alberta Learning Minister Dr. Lyle Oberg.

While it seems the advantages of a post-secondary education heavily outweigh the disadvantages, the problem for many aspiring students is the overwhelming financial barrier of a university or college education, according to a national post-secondary lobby group.

"[Tuition] costs are a national priority for all Canadians–if you’re academically qualified, there is no reason why financial barriers should enable you from attending school," said Canadian Alliance of Student Associations National Director James Kusie. "You have to ask yourself who’s filling the seats… students come from high income backgrounds."

Students’ Union President Jayna Jayna Gilchrist had similar concerns.

"Tuition becomes a major deterrent for some students who wish to attend a post-secondary institution," said Gilchrist. "Students from a lower income background put themselves in debt, struggling to pay off both the loan and the interest payments afterwards."

Gilchrist also emphasized the importance of financial aid available to students to help them with the possibility of any financial obstacles.

"There are lots of scholarships and bursaries for students in financial need that aren’t taken every year, so check the Internet or financial aid in the library if you need help," said Gilchrist.

Post-Secondary PR Repre- sentative for Alberta Education, Katrina Bluetchen, emphasized the importance of pursuing a post-secondary education.

"In research we conducted, we found that people generally over exaggerate and over estimate the costs of getting a post-secondary degree," said Bluetchen. "One athing is for sure, the costs of going are much greater than not doing so."

An inter-provincial comparison of salaries confirmed post-secondary graduates with a bachelor’s degree in Alberta earned $46,565 while those without post-secondary education earned $30,072 annually in average gross salary, based on data obtained from Statistics Canada’s 2002 Labour Force Survey, Alberta was ranked first in all categories, and was fourth highest in tuition costs behind Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Saskatchewan.

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