Minister of Advanced Edu- cation David Hancock has been busy on the University of Calgary campus in the last couple of weeks. A surprise guest lecture in a COMS 201 class, hints at free tuition for the first two years of post-secondary education, and an open forum with students during a lunch hour in MacEwan Student Center have propelled him and the Klein government's plans for post-secondary education strategically into the student's good books and a favourable media spotlight.
Hancock's public appearances seem no more than attention gathering ventures to promote the Klein government's grand visions for a future where post secondary education is accessible to all. Hancock has risen to the occasion, and glows as the mouthpiece for the future of PSE in Alberta, but unfounded visions for the future do current students no good. Neither will long-term plans benefit future students; the Alberta government cannot build a system for the future without first repairing the existing structure.
Hancock's responses in his Thursday media circus in MSC were as flawed as the idea of free tuition for the first two years of post-secondary. Though his student forum looked good at first, there were no solid answers for the next year, or even the next five years.
All the talk of the future is well and good for students who are just entering elementary school but, for the student whose grades slip as she works multiple jobs to put food on the table, for the student who graduates with $20,000 in debt or for anyone who cannot afford to attend university after high school, buzzwords like "long-term investment" and "vision for the future" offer little comfort.
The long-term focus also gives Hancock a means to gloss over next year's tuition increase. Though the Alberta government momentarily appeased students this year with the Alberta Centennial Tuition Rebate, next year's tuition will, in all likelihood, be double a normal increase. But next year's $540 extra for a full course load can easily be explained away as a necessary sacrifice because the Alberta government is planning for future generations.
While the forum with Minister Hancock shows the Alberta government is starting to take notice that students are voters too, this consultation is too little, too late. It fails to give current students the respect they deserve leaving them to suffer so someday, sometime--through nobody can agree on either--things might be better.