By Mary Chan
According to a new survey, Calgarians are concerned about post-secondary education, high tuition and university underfunding.
The survey, released by the University of Calgary Coalition for Reinvestment, found that Calgarians rank post-secondary education third in spending priorities after health care and K-12 education; 76 per cent believe that "the cost of tuition prevents many potential students from attending the U of C" and 89 per cent believe the province should spend some of its surplus on post-secondary education.
"There wasn’t much variance in the numbers between U of C stakeholders and non U of C stakeholders," said Students’ Union President Rob South about the surplus funding numbers. "I think it shows public support for issues we are trying to raise. It shows to this province that there’s lot of public support for reinvesting in universities, and I think this is an issue they’ve been all too willing to ignore."
The survey, correct to within plus or minus six per cent 19 times out of 20, was commissioned by CORE, a joint lobby effort between seven university groups: administration; the Students’ Union; the Senate; the faculty association; the Graduate Students’ Association; the Alumni Association and AUPE.
"We felt that we have to have the public onside with us in our attempts to increase base funding to the university," said CORE member and Chair of Local 52, AUPE, Dan Tilleman. "Before we started, we wanted to see if the public was sympathetic with our cause."
Despite all the positive feedback, one response did worry South.
"The majority of Calgarians [61 per cent] thought that it was acceptable for university students to have some level of debt upon graduation," he said. "But there’s no qualifier about the amount of debt."
A copy of the survey was sent to both Premier Ralph Klein and Minister of Learning Lyle Oberg.
"It’s basically to prove to them that we are open about what’s going on," said Tilleman. "We didn’t want to be left open to criticism that we were only releasing select figures that were in our favour."
"The minister is aware of the CORE survey," said Alberta Learning Spokesperson Ed Greenberg. "He’s certainly seen the results. It was information he appreciated receiving, but the process, in terms of addressing the concerns, had started weeks ago."
The survey results come out right before the provincial government unveils its budget on Feb. 24. South was unconcerned with the possible bad timing.
"The provincial government, over the past several years, particularly with the growth of surpluses, has been willing to declare increases in funding at any part of the year as opposed to holding off until the budget," he said. "So there’s no reason we won’t get money declared for the next provincial budget."