It's official: the provincial government is driving post-secondary education into the ground.
The provincial budget was released last Tuesday and, according to Students' Union President Jason Allen, there were no surprises.
"At some point in the not-so-distant future, it will become glaringly obvious that Alberta has created a second-rate post-secondary education system because of systematic underfunding and short-sighted slashing," said Allen. "By continuing to view education as a liability rather than a long-term investment, the government is doing a disservice to Albertans."
Total spending will be reduced by $65 million in 1995/95. This includes a seven per cent reduction in grants to public post-secondary institutions. These grants will be reduced by a further three per cent in 1996/97 and held constant in 1997/98.
According to the provincial Minister of Advanced Education and Career Development Jack Ady, however, the direction adult learning is taking in this province has been shaped by extensive consultation with Albertans.
"Our public consultations helped us to clearly define the department's mission and role," said Ady. "Advanced Education and Career Development will lead and work with other partners to set directions for adult learning and provide Albertans with an accessible, responsive, and affordable system of quality adult learning that is accountable for results."
Allen, however, maintains the cuts are going to cause problems.
"These cuts must inevitably come from even more reductions in staff, which in turn will contribute to the further erosion of quality," said Allen.
Loss of faculty due to uncompetitive salaries, deteriorating labs and equipment, and a 40 per cent drop in new additions to the library are early indicators of the plummeting quality of education at U of C.
"Students shouldn't be surprised," said Vice-president (Finance and Services) Dr. Keith "Sparky" Winter. "There's nothing in this budget we didn't know about."
"Only one thing was unexpected. Last year we kneÂºw we had three years of cuts ahead; now we have two years of cuts then a leveling off."
There are some indications that the provincial government is aware of the problems facing post-secondary education, even if it regards the deficit as the number one concern. A $47 million Access Fund will potentially create 10,000 new student positions by the end of 1996/97. Also in the works is a policy framework to deal with the status of university research.
In response to the budget, the educational climate of Alberta is becoming fiercely competitive. Performance indicators will be established to evaluate the success of public post-secondary institutions, and grant money will be based on these indicators.
"Depending on what the (federal government) does to us, this could be the most difficult year for the U of C," explained Winter, "but we have no sense of what the federal government is doing."