It's time to stop cutting before the post-secondary education is decapitated.
That's the message sent to Premier Ralph Klein by nearly 200 students gathered at Mount Royal College Monday for a joint protest organized by the College, the Alberta College and Technical Institute Student Executive Council, and the University of Calgary Students' Union.
"The first two cuts--the 11 per cent and the seven per cent--have been cripilling," said Don Mcfarlane, vice-president (external) of the Students' Association of MRC, as he tore an arm and a leg off a larger-than-life cardboard cut-out representing PSE. "The next cut will be murder."
Alberta's colleges, universities, and technical institutes have absorbed funding reductions of 18 per cent over the past two years, saddling students with tuition fees that have more than doubled since 1991. According to student leaders at the protest, this is threatening the accessibility of education.
"The single greatest constraint on economic growth now, throughout the world, is the skill level of the workforce," said MRC President Tom Wood. "To deny an individual access to education or training in this economy is to deny them access to the economy."
SU VP External Lance Kayfish said lack of vision was the problem that forced the government to make the cuts.
"What I find ironic is that part of the solution--cuts to PSE--shows the same flaw. No vision for the future."
Student reaction was generally positive towards the message, although some wondered how effective the protest would be.
"I think (this protest is) a start... I think we have to keep talking and keep putting across our points," said MRC computer science student Shawn Keown. "It's amazing, with bankruptcies going sky-high, that they expect us to take on these massive debt loads. How many of these people (at the rally) will be declaring bankruptcy some day?"
"We are playing more and receiving less. The three per cent cut slated for the next year must be averted in order to protect our education," said SAMRC President Jacqueline Fisher. "Re-investment in post-secondary education would be welcome. However, in order to re-invest you must stop cutting."
The MRC rally against funding cuts was timed to run in conjunction with the Education Makes Sense campaign currently running at several post-secondary campuses across Alberta.