Alberta budget announced

By Stephanie Shewchuk

The Alberta government announced Wed., Apr. 13 that fund-ing for post-secondary education will increase by $433 million over the next three years, a 30 per cent increase from the previous term.

The budget has been divided to provide funding for the operating budgets of post-secondary institutions, while simultaneously allowing growth in other areas.

University of Calgary President Dr. Harvey Weingarten is pleased with the details of the new budget.

“This is a good, better budget,” said Weingarten. “We’ve been hearing a lot of talk from the government but we saw them today putting more resources into post-secondary education.”

Along with the previously announced tuition freeze, the highlights of the budget included a $90 million endowment for the Access Growth Fund to add 15,000 new seats at post-secondary institutions and an 18 per cent increase in base operating grants over the next three years.

Surprising additions included $19.5 million to assist in the operating of new post-secondary facilities and $4 million per year allocated for degree granting programs at private, non-profit institutions.

Weingarten believes the quality of education will be favourably influenced by the unexpected increase in base operating grants.

“If you look at the university budget and the whole set of initiatives to address the quality concerns, this new funding allows us to move forward on what has already been established,” he said in reference to the initiatives determined by the quality money plebiscite.

He added that the government’s three-year commitment is also an extremely positive contribution to post-secondary education.

“This is extremely important to have a three-year commitment from the government,” stated Weingarten. “It allows us to know what to expect in the next three years, where in previous years we’ve only know what the next year or so holds.”

Although Weingarten appeared content with the announcement, others are somewhat disappointed.

“I think the new budget is adequate but students should not be entirely satisfied,” said Students’ Union Vice-President External Mike Bosch. “The tuition freeze is still good, but it’s really maintaining our current situation more than anything. The University of Calgary needs to catch up to other institutions and the six per cent per year in base operating grants will not allow us to do that.”

He continued to add, “With base operating where it is, it may not necessarily accommodate additional students. We asked for 10 per cent when we were lobbying and six per cent per year seems bittersweet.”

“If this announcement came in November before the announcement of the tuition freeze we would have been more excited.”

Weingarten and Bosch agree that the provisions in the new budget will make post-secondary education more affordable and accessible to students.

“It’s taken a first step,” said Bosch. “If costs go down, there will be more people going into the system.”