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University welcomes NDP funding promises

By Fabian Mayer, June 18 2015 —

The NDP government delivered its first speech from the throne on June 15. The speech laid out the government’s plans to eliminate political donations from unions and corporations, raise taxes and restore funding to healthcare and education.

Post-secondary education was mentioned once in the speech read in the legislature by Alberta Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell.

“We will invest in stable and predictable funding for our schools and post-secondary institutions,” Mitchell said.

While the speech offered no further details, University of Calgary president Elizabeth Cannon was pleased with the government’s tone.

“It was encouraging overall, and for post-secondary we welcome the message around stable, predictable funding,” Cannon said.

The NDP promised to roll back market modifiers. These program-specific fee hikes were approved for three U of C programs by the Progressive Conservative government last December. Cannon said a roll back without additional government funding would hurt the university.

“Those monies are already in budgets, they’re already starting to be allocated and what we don’t want to have are shortfalls going forward relative to the budgets that we’ve already approved,” Cannon said.

She added that in four years the U of C would need an additional $5 million in funding per year if the 2014 fee hikes are reversed.

“If they are rolled back we want to be compensated with the equivalent number of dollars heading up to the future,” Cannon said.

The government has also promised to freeze tuition. Cannon believes the current system of an inflation-tied cap works well.

“I think people understood the importance of increasing tuition at that level to be able to maintain budgets, but again this is a decision by government as to what a freeze really means,” Cannon said.

Cannon worries a total freeze would be difficult to maintain.

“Clearly if you do freeze tuition with a hard zero for a long period of time, the onus on government to be able to continue those investments increases,” Cannon said.

The university hopes to meet with minster of advanced education Lori Sigurdson in the next few months.

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