We should appreciate the opportunity to receive a post-secondary education, but it is shameful that the Alberta government is not investing more in its future through the education of its citizens, especially in this time of plenty. Even though their request is a mere drop in the bucket, students must compete with health care, K-12 education, social services and organized labour in this busy election season for a share of Alberta's $9 billion debt-servicing surplus.
According to student leaders and a reasonable examination of the U of C budget, an additional $50 million from the province would mitigate the need for the almost traditional seven per cent annual tuition hike. At current provincial funding levels which increase approximately with inflation, undergraduates starting this year paying $5,147 in tuition alone for a full course load, will pay $6,305 for their fourth year assuming a seven per cent increase per year.
Though it is difficult to argue that students already privileged with so much should share in the surplus, a $50 million windfall repeated in years to come would relieve financial worries for the growing segment of the population. Expansion in the university's program offerings, as demanded by both students and employers, are increasing the strain on already overextended post-secondary resources.
As Calgary Economic Development pointed out earlier this year, and as repeated by the SU last week, the importance of post-secondary education to Alberta's economic success cannot be underestimated. The energy industry which brought us this surplus requires constant input of highly skilled and educated workers. Our ability to innovate, sustain growth and remain competitive in the world market depends on continuing to produce highly educated workers to retain leadership in these industries. This should be reaffirmed by further investments in PSE so that we can all reap its benefits in the future.
Students and leaders in post-secondary education certainly appreciate one-time investments, such as those at the new veterinary school. But a bright future for post-secondary education demands that we all ask for sustained PSE funding when Ralph's questionnaire arrives at our doors.