The new Alberta budget for 2015–16 will increase funding to the province’s universities, colleges, and technical schools by $280 M compared to last year. The funding will help support a two-year tuition freeze for students, a $40 M boost to base funding for schools, and a $183 M increase in student loans. $581 M of the $5.7 B overall budget will be set aside for eight major campus expansion projects. The funding announcement was met with relief by many higher education stakeholders, including Erik Queenan, President of the Students’ Association at Mount Royal University, who said that students were “really encouraged to hear the government is acknowledging the importance of post-secondary, especially in these turbulent economic times.”
The University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s program in Forensic Science has received full accreditation from the American Academy of Forensic Science’s Forensic Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). Achieving FEPAC accreditation requires that programs meet strict standards for course material and assessment methods, and that graduates demonstrate a high level of practical ability. FEPAC-accredited programs are also required to have ongoing affiliations with forensic science labs and law enforcement organizations. UOIT’s program is reportedly 1 of just 2 programs in Canada to achieve FEPAC’s highest level of distinction. Meanwhile, Mount Royal University’s aviation program has been granted a 5-year accreditation by the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI). The distinction reportedly makes MRU just the second aviation program outside of the US to achieve AABI certification. “We’ve received the gold seal of accreditation when it comes to aviation education … This is further recognition that our program meets stringent standards of quality, and it’s also a strong indication that we’re providing a relevant education experience to our students,” said Leon Cygman, acting Chair of Management, Human Resources, and Aviation at MRU.
Cuts to postsecondary funding in Alberta could have dire consequences for future generations, warns young entrepreneur and Rethinking Higher Ed contributor Emerson Csorba. Csorba, Director of Gen Y Inc, a multigenerational culture consultancy, argues that the province’s education system constitutes one of its most significant advantages. Possible cuts to PSE could threaten the province’s resilience in the face of unexpected events like the recent drop in oil prices. Cuts, Csorba writes, “would allow Alberta to balance the budget in the short term at the expense of Alberta’s long-term prosperity, specifically by worsening socioeconomic disparities.” He notes that economic inequality in AB has increased at a faster rate than the national average, and argues that the province’s PSE sector has a critical role to play in narrowing the gap. AB is reportedly considering dropping its tuition fee increase cap, while institutions are preparing for likely budget cuts. Mount Royal University this week announced that it was increasing student fees by 65% for full-time students; VP Administrative Services Duane Anderson said that the increase was necessary, citing “the fiscal realities facing our province and all postsecondary institutions across Canada.”
Mount Royal University is set to unveil an ambitious 10-year strategic plan that would see the institution expand its degree offerings, roll back its applied programs, and significantly boost enrolment of Aboriginal and international students. According to a draft of the plan obtained by Metro News, MRU will look to add 4 baccalaureate degree programs and phase out its 5 applied degrees. It also hopes to increase the number of majors offered from 42 to 60 and boost total enrolment to 13,000 students by 2024–25, a 60% increase over the current number. In the draft version of the document, MRU President David Docherty describes the plan as “a framework for excellence” that “identifies our key strengths as well as areas where additional focus will benefit our students and university.” The plan, entitled Learning Together, Leading Together, will go before the board of governors for approval in late February.