Edmonton, Alberta – A new report by Parkland Institute, “Roadmap or Roadkill, A Critical Look at the Government’s Strategy for Post-Secondary Education in Alberta,” challenges the Alberta government’s plan to transform post-secondary education in the province.
This report by professors Trevor Harrison and Richard Mueller critically argues the government’s plan, “Alberta 2030: Building Skills for Jobs,” is ill-advised and the proposed changes and significant cuts, if implemented, will have a radical and even dangerous impact on Alberta’s post-secondary system, including:
- There is neither a plan to add the projected 40,000 new student spaces the system will require by 2028 nor plans to increase access for Alberta students from the lowest participation rate to the national average.
- Post-secondary institutions will be subjected to increased corporate control over which programs will be offered and what research will be funded.
- The $430-million total project cut to the post-secondary education budget will result in much higher costs for students to attend post-secondary.
- Government cuts to Alberta’s institutions have resulted in massive layoffs for staff and faculty and will have a significant impact on the quality of post-secondary education in the future.
“The UCP government is planning to drive Alberta’s post-secondary education system down a dangerous road that will lead to greatly reduced access, quality and affordability,” says Dr. Trevor Harrison, a professor of sociology at the University of Lethbridge and former director of Parkland Institute. “Albertans need to challenge the government to invest in our post-secondary education system so we can support more students to get a high-quality education and help diversify and strengthen the economy.”
The Alberta government paid the American consulting corporation McKinsey & Company $3.7 million to analyze Alberta’s post-secondary education system but has refused to release the report. Instead, the Alberta 2030 plan has used talking points from the McKinnon report that simplistically compares Alberta’s PSE system to Canada’s three largest provinces.
“The McKinnon report takes a very narrow and skewed look at the differences between Alberta’s system and Canada’s three largest provinces and does not address issues of economies of scale nor Alberta having the lowest post-secondary participation rate in the country,” says Dr. Richard Mueller, a professor of economics at the University of Lethbridge. “We need to invest in a post-secondary education system that will meet the needs of Albertans and our economy rather than using select data to help justify massive cuts to our colleges, institutes and universities.”
The report concludes with recommendations to improve the post-secondary system in Alberta, including reinvesting in public PSE funding, increasing access for students, rehiring and attracting more faculty and staff and providing free tuition for the first two years of post-secondary education. The report also calls for a new model of democratic and collegial governance and increased government transparency and accountability.
Parkland Institute submitted a freedom of information request in May to view the $3.7-million McKinsey report upon which Alberta 2030 is purportedly based, but so far the government has not released the report.
During the upcoming sitting of the Alberta legislature, it’s expected the UCP will make changes to the Post-Secondary Learning Act.
Province-wide support from Alberta Students, Faculty and Staff
Below are comments from Parkland Institute partners about the report and the provincial cuts to post-secondary institutions:
“A well-educated population is a proven driver of economic growth. Instead of cutting post-secondary education funding, the Government of Alberta should be providing targeted investments in students and our institutions. Albertans would benefit from the investments suggested by the Parkland report for generations to come.”
-Ryan Lindblad, ULSU VP External and board member of the Council of Alberta University Students
“Just when Alberta needs to diversify our economy, the UCP government is taking the wrong approach by narrowing Albertan's post-secondary education options. Lethbridge has always been strong supporters of post-secondary education, as it drives a modern, flexible economy. The last thing we need is to take the kind of steps backwards this government proposes in their Alberta 2030 strategy.”
-Dr. Dan O’Donnell, President, University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA)
“After the UCP took power in 2019, we’ve seen layoffs, low morale, and budget reductions at the University of Lethbridge. The UCP has been viciously attacking the public post-secondary system, and both students and workers are paying the price. More cuts means a poorer quality of education, and universities are one of the keys to Alberta’s economic future.
-Jake Cameron, Chair of AUPE Local 53 - University of Lethbridge
“Alberta students have only experienced rising costs and cuts to services and their educational pursuits. Financial barriers to education are one of the major obstacles for Albertans looking for additional skills. Addressing the cost of education will improve both access and affordability of a post-secondary education; we believe this Parkland report better addresses these concerns than the Alberta 2030 report.”
-Rachel Timmermans, Chair of Council of Alberta University Students and board member of the Council of Alberta University Students
“Mount Royal University has felt the impact of the UCP’s austerity cuts to the post-secondary education system first-hand. We have over 100 fewer staff to support students and faculty to deliver our programs and services and we continue to rely heavily on contract academic faculty to teach more students in larger classes all without the resources needed to do either. Rather than accept the UCP government's dangerous 2030 plan for post-secondary education, we need to reinvest in Alberta’s system and provide increased and predictable funding so faculty and staff can deliver the education and research Albertans need for a prosperous tomorrow.”
-Dr. Lee Easton, President, Mount Royal Faculty Association
“The UCP government's cuts are causing the elimination of critical support services, cuts to staff wages, massive job loss, and privatization. Cutting necessary support staff jobs that enable world-class education and research creates operational inefficiencies and dysfunction in the institutions instead of stabilizing it, in contrast to what the UCP government's Alberta 2030 plan implies. It will take years to undo the continuing social, economic and reputational damage that is occurring by these ill-conceived decisions.”
-Justin Huseby, President, AUPE Local 52, University of Calgary
“We agree with the Parkland report that we need to get rid of the performance-based funding system. Academic research has concluded strongly that the performance-based funding does not improve efficiency or outcome and is not effective, and we call on the Alberta government to not go down that road.”
-Dr. Rafat Alam, President, Grant MacEwan University Faculty Association
“At the University of Alberta we've seen the results of the UCP's slash-and-burn approach to post-secondary education: libraries closed, students losing access to advising services, shuttering of student study spaces, and the move towards student self-service systems that make getting help difficult and more time consuming. Our universities need sufficient, sustainable and targeted funding to the front line of our institution if we are to be able to provide students with the quality education from which to launch their careers and help this province.”
-Jillian Pratt, President, Non-Academic Staff Association at the University of Alberta
“Alberta would benefit from the economic growth created by an investment in post-secondary education. Albertans want additional skills and training as the economy rebounds, however many students face barriers such as lack of space in classrooms, tuition and fees, and childcare that prevent them from enrolling and succeeding. As this report denotes, Alberta needs investments in our education future.”
Matthew Yanish, Vice Chair of the Council of Alberta University Students, Vice President External (VPE) at the Students' Association of MacEwan University (SAMU)
"We all want to ensure students on our campus have the best possible experience, but years of cuts and unpredictable funding have deeply impacted our programming. Student supports have been hit hard, and staff are dealing with unmanageable workloads as we try adapt with fewer resources. If we truly want to support our students and our future, post-secondary institutes need stable, predictable funding.”
-Trina Carroll, President CUPE Local 1445, Red Deer College
Parkland Institute is hosting an online public forum on Thursday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. to discuss the findings in this report:
Setting the Right Direction for Post-Secondary Education
Featuring Dr. Trevor Harrison and Dr. Rick Mueller, authors of Parkland Institute's report “Road Map or Road Kill: A Critical Look at the Government's Strategy for Post-Secondary Education in Alberta”
In partnership with:
Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations
Council of Alberta University Students
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees
Non-Academic Staff Association (U of A)
If you’d like to arrange interviews, contact:
Sarah Pratt, Parkland Institute communications co-ordinator