October 3, 2022 October 3, 2022

Unintelligent: Follow the money, just not logic with post secondary education

Posted on 2 March 2022 by Ryan Dahlman

If there is one thing I have learned being in the media is that when someone wants to know the reason for many political conflicts, follow the money, just don’t follow the logic because generally there isn’t any. 

While many people are still recovering from the ringing in their ears from all of the honking of the convoys, one wonders why people make the decisions they do. 

Not talking about the people who are still protesting despite the various pandemic mandates in Alberta were scheduled to be lifted earlier this week. Yet in Saskatchewan, they were also scheduled to have some mandates lifted on the same day the province declared a State of Emergency because of Covid-19. 

No, let’s look at one area which hasn’t been getting a lot of press is education and more specifically post secondary education. 

With all the upheaval in the world, the nasty labour strife at the University of Lethbridge involving the board of governors and the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association has been all but ignored. 

The faculty association says it isn’t necessarily about salaries. In a recent letter to the Lethbridge Herald, associate professor from the faculty of education David Slomp noted “The main hurdle to resolving the impasse is that the Board’s negotiators seem unwilling to engage meaningfully with ULFA proposals designed to achieve greater equity, transparency, and shared decision-making at the University of Lethbridge. These include proposals to provide greater equity and employment stability for sessional instructors—the most vulnerable population of instructors within any university system; proposals to ensure the university honours long-standing clauses in our collective agreement designed to ensure transparency in how workload equity is determined and achieved at the University of Lethbridge; proposals to ensure greater transparency in the University’s budget process; and proposals for co-management of our jointly funded benefits.”  

In other words, they want more decision making in the budget making process and how their workload is determined. 

However, the board of directors apparently haven’t been talking to the union too much. It has turned into a very public war of words with each side accusing the other of not being forthright. 

What is lost in all of this is the provincial government’s lack of want to adequately be involved in post secondary education. Show you are throwing some money at it and it’ll be fine. Unlike a post secondary instituion, the government is not critcally thinking about it nor are they formulating any solutions to the problems. Education is going to become elitist. While the wealthy “have’s” can point all they want at the have-nots not being smart enough or hard working enough if they can’t afford university, the fact is post secondary education is becoming too expensive for many. 

Why would you want it to be accessible? 

Now before you point to the fact last week’s budget did discuss post secondary education: “a historic $171-million investment into post-secondary education over the next three years to ensure students and families can find post-secondary spots right here at home in high-demand fields. As part of the Alberta at Work program, more spaces will be added to areas where we need more graduates like tech, health care, aviation and finance.”

Budget 2022 makes a historic $171-million investment into post-secondary education over the next three years to ensure students and families can find post-secondary spots right here at home in high-demand fields. As part of the Alberta at Work program, more spaces will be added to areas where we need more graduates like tech, health care, aviation and finance.

To ensure the next generation is able to graduate with the skills they need to succeed, Budget 2022 provides $6 million over three years to create more than 1,200 work-integrated learning placements.

Budget 2022 also makes the cost of post-secondary education more affordable for all by providing an additional $12 million over three years for existing scholarships and $15 million over three years for new bursaries for low-income students.

Alberta’s government is also taking proactive steps to stay ahead of the rapid pace of technological change and associated labour disruption due to automation and digitization by providing $8 million over three years to develop cutting-edge micro-credential programs. These short-term programs will help more Albertans reskill and upskill to stay ahead of the changing nature of work.

“To ensure the next generation is able to graduate with the skills they need to succeed.”

Sounds good except both the Lethbridge College and University of Lethbridge said they both have suffered an over 5% cut in their funding from the government about $5 million. What is the logic in not having an adequately funded university? The students suffer. And whether you are talking about law, nursing, welding, teachers, plumbing, nursing, fine arts or psychology, the need for a well-educated workforce is crucial. 

No logic right? Well like those reality crime shows where the “a-ha” moment is near the end, remember, follow the money, not the logic. 

According to one of the students who is a strong supporter of the ULFA, the high salaries of the board of governors including the Unvierosty of Lethbridge should be taken into account. 

With protocols in the board of governors controls the salaries, working conditions and makes the final call on programs and professors. If the University itself is having its funding cut? What is easier for the BOG, cutting their own salaries/positions or programs? Cut salaries of staff, increase tuition rates, the pay off of throwing money at scholarships and bursaries is better than paying higher salaries. “look at all we are doing for education?” 

The government doesn’t necessarily have to throw more money at post secondary institutions but at least there should be some accountability. 

Get more support from the private sector in a poor economy? You need to have critical thinking in the private sector and the only way new ideas can be facilitated is through education and innovation. Oh.

Lack of dynamics and creating divisiveness by the government and letting post secondary officials fight with the students  and staff is not healthy. Sounds familiar: see Alberta Education; Alberta Health.  

Students in Lethbridge are the ones who are paying  for it most and in the end society is the one who suffers.   

Ryan Dahlman is the editor of Prairie Post East and Prairie Post West

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