After years of funding cuts, Alberta plans to invest more than $3 billion in post-secondary education in an effort to make its residents the most highly educated in the country.
The Conservative government of Ralph Klein made the announcement in its speech from the throne last month kicking off the new legislative session.
Alberta's Lieutenant Governor Norman Kwong, delivering his first throne speech, unveiled plans for a new $3 billion post-secondary education endowment fund to be financed from future surpluses. The fund will support the creation of a new centre for Chinese studies at the University of Alberta and the development of a province-wide digital library.
In addition to the endowment fund, the government's Access to the Future Act will create 60,000 new post-secondary spaces by 2020 and boost the Alberta Heritage Scholarship Fund by $1 million. The government also plans to double the budget of the Ingenuity Fund to promote university-based research.
"Our goal with this bold expansion plan is to move Albertans to the highest rate of post-secondary education in the country," Kwong said. "The government is committed to removing obstacles from the path of any Albertan who wants to get an education, whether it's from a university, college or technical institution."
Faculty representatives welcomed the government's newfound focus on post-secondary education, but they also warned that commitment will ring hollow unless more money is put back into the core operating grants of universities and colleges.
"The throne speech is rich in icing, but the cake is still undetermined," said Jeannette Buckingham, president of the Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations. "While the endowment fund and the improvements in student access funding are welcome, the central, overriding issue of inadequate core funding for post-secondary institutions in the province remains. We have hopes this will be addressed, at least to some extent, in the budget."
Measured on a per student basis and adjusted for inflation, government funding for post-secondary education in Alberta has fallen by 24 per cent since 1993. Over the same period, tuition fees have increased by nearly 200 per cent.