By Fabian Mayer, April 6 2016 —
The NDP government promised a top-to-bottom review of Alberta’s post-secondary system during last spring’s election campaign. Student groups were told in the fall of 2015 to prepare for the review, but their input hasn’t been sought so far.
Council of Alberta University Students chair Romy Garrido believes a review of the system is long overdue. She said the student lobby organization is prepared to contribute to a review of post-secondary education in the province.
“We have been given deadlines from the government and they’re moved every couple of weeks,” Garrido said.
The Advanced Education portfolio changed hands in early February when Premier Notley shuffled her cabinet. Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Marlin Schmidt took over from Lori Sigurdson. Schmidt said the government is still planning the review.
“We’re scoping out what that learning review is going to look like,” Schmidt said. “We’re going to be launching consultations with stakeholders in the next few months.”
Schmidt wouldn’t give a firm date for when the review will start, but said consultations will take place over the spring and summer.
“We need to have an answer on the tuition piece at the very least by the next academic year and that means that we have to have a policy proposal before cabinet in the fall,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt is the eighth minister of Advanced Education since 2011, something Garrido finds frustrating.
“It’s difficult for us to establish a relationship with someone who’s always moving around,” Garrido said. “It makes us start from zero essentially every time.”
Schmidt said the decision of how long he he has the Advanced Education portfolio is up to the premier, but acknowledged the high turnover in the position is a problem.
“How can you even begin to understand the problems if you’re not in the position long enough to effectively come up with a plan to address them,” Schmidt said.
CAUS members were in Edmonton from April 4–7 for their annual lobby week. Garrido said provincial mental health funding for post-secondary institutions is one of their top priorities. She was optimistic the budget will include some sort of mental health funding.
“We’ve been seeing in the media and in different correspondence with the minister that there may be something coming,” Garrido said.
Schmidt wouldn’t provide any details on the budget, but credited students for their effort to bring awareness to the issue.
The budget is expected to include a substantial deficit as provincial revenues remain depressed due to stubbornly low oil prices.
University of Calgary administration declined to comment prior to the budget’s release on April 14.