Dear Mr. Hancock,
In the months leading up to the A Learning Alberta Forum in Edmonton you lead us to believe big things were on the way. All your political innuendo, public forums and especially the buzz generated by dropping the free tuition bomb lead us to believe this forum was the culmination of something huge. We thought it was going to solve our post-secondary problems and finally validate all the sacrifices PSE has made in the last 15 years. We thought wrong. What we're left with is a bunch of vague promises for action and at least five more months of talk. Not such a bold move after all, Dave.
There are three priority areas you marked for immediate action: adult literacy, Aboriginal learning and transforming the advanced learning system. The last of which you claim can be done by defining its roles, allowing it to become world class in specific areas and other vague, evadable plans. These are three great areas, but what did you actually say, Dave? The short answer you gave us: three subcommittees will be submitting reports in March of 2006. When you said areas of immediate action we assumed you meant something tangible and, well, immediate.
Here's an idea. Post-secondary students in Alberta are about to get double bumped for tuition thanks to Ralph Klein's one time tuition freeze 'gift' last year. That means we're paying $620 more for a full course load than we were last year. Not only does that hurt our pocket books, but it's offensive you expect us not to notice the double tuition increase and the province's inaction on their promise of a new tuition policy. What was the point of freezing tuition for one year if you had no intention of solving the problem before tuition had to be raised again?
Last year's tuition 'freeze' cost the province $43 million, so doing it for one more year until the new tuition policy comes through will cost roughly $90 million. Now, compare that to the $1.3 to $1.4 billion the province will shell out for the $400 rebates. If you're going to arbitrarily choose numbers for the rebate, why not make it $350 per Albertan, follow through with your insinuations and cover the tuition increase until you fix what you openly admit is a flaw in the system. Doing so would have made the Edmonton forum worth the hype and upped the province's esteem with students. Instead, the only thing we were promised was more bureaucracy.
The recent flux of big ticket donations to the university make it clear the business community values a high quality education while understanding that money spent in PSE is not just money spent, but also a social investment. It's time you educated Klein and the other decision makers in our province on this.
We weren't expecting you to freeze tuition and simultaneously make Alberta the educational envy of the world at the minister's forum, but we were hoping you would try to do one or the other. We might be tired of paying maximum tuition increases while getting the same old crap, but it's not too late to do something about it.