By Darlene Seto
Election time often seems to bring forth a maelstrom of promises from various political parties intent on capturing votes. With the Alberta provincial election rapidly approaching, this year is no different.
In fact, it appears all the major political parties, other than the reigning Progressive Conservatives, are promising immediate and extensive investment for post-secondary education.
“Free post-secondary tuition in Alberta in 10 years is on the Green agenda,” stated Green Party of Alberta Leader George Read. “It is possible. [The surplus] is an indicator of a huge deficit to people in the social structure.”
The Greens, as well as the Alberta New Democratic Party, both plan to freeze and decrease tuition fees for students.
“If New Brunswick, a have-not province, can freeze tuition, then the least Alberta can do is rollback fees 10 per cent immediately before more thorough review,” added the NDP candidate for Calgary Varsity, Mark Gabruch. “We will commit $100 million to post-secondary education for four years, accounting for inflation as well.”
The Alberta Liberals are also making financing education a top priority. They plan to spend 35 per cent of annual budget surpluses on a post-secondary endowment fund if elected.
Mark D’Andrea, President of the Alberta Liberal Party was resolute.
“We need to invest in the future,” he said. “Why can’t we be leading the [Macleans’] rankings? There is a major concern.”
Minister of Education Lyle Oberg defended his PC party.
“There has been a 50 per cent increase in funding since 1999,” he asserted. “The government has increased post-secondary education by 35,000 spots since 1993.”
The PC’s plan is to maintain tuition increase limits, with promises to increase access and expand degree-granting opportunities to post-secondary education. In response to the opposition parties’s platforms, Oberg remained steadfast.
“Tuition fees are middle-of-the pack for the country,” he said. “We believe that students should pay a proportionate [25 per cent] cost of their education.”
Statistics on the official Alberta Learning website reiterate the government’s claim on being the number one province on per student spending on education, seemingly dubious of these claims for impending trouble.
“Access, affordability, and excellence remain hallmarks of our post-secondary education system in Alberta,” quoted the site.
However, there remains concern about the state of post-secondary institutes within Alberta.
“[Education] is in trouble,” stated Gabruch. “Look at how tuition has been going up–there is a lack of funding. The PC’s don’t have a plan.”