LETHBRIDGE: Provincial cuts to post-secondary funding over
the last year were the focus of a SACPA (Southern Alberta Council on Public
Affairs) session earlier this month.
Doctor Robert Sutherland stated that the cuts send a out a clear message,
"Reducing funding and reducing capacity in the universities by more than 7-per
cent, sends a message from the government to Alberta, that this is something
that is not central to the future of Albertans and is not important."
Sutherland stated that Alberta has the lowest level of university
participation rates in Canada, and while some of that likely has to do with high
paying jobs in the oil sector, he feels a lack of funding is the real
He also went over the major benefits of having a population with a higher
level of education, "It produces an educated citizenry, people with university
educations use social services and health services far less than people without
university educations, they pay higher taxes. It's just a net gain for a
province to be fostering the notion that university education is something that
should be sought after."
As for the money the province recently put back in education, including
projects at the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College, Sutherland
explained that while those announcements are welcome, there are still some
issues, "The most important thing to develop in the long term is to have stable,
predictable funding, not yanking hundreds of millions of dollars out, then
putting some back in. What this does is it creates a climate of uncertainty,
university boards and administrators can't plan to develop the programs they
need for the future, they're hunkering down just trying to avoid crisis."