News / Calgary

Minister deems claims Alberta post-secondary students fleeing province 'sensational'

Claims from Saskatchewan universities that students are fleeing Alberta in search of greener pastures to the east are "not backed by actual facts," says the provincial post-secondary minister.

Thomas Lukaszuk responded Tuesday to a Metro story in which the University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina claimed they were being flooded with applications from Alberta students who had either been turned away or feared they would be by universities here grappling a with a seven per cent cut in operational funding.

The University of Calgary and Mount Royal University have scaled back enrolment in certain areas, and the latter school has suspended eight diploma- and certificate-granting altogether in an effort to close funding shortfalls.

But Lukaszuk said Alberta is "by far, a recipient of students and not an exporter of students."

"Programs that they may be suspending are, most often, programs that had very low — abysmal — enrolment to begin with," he added. "To be arguing that all of the sudden some kind of exodus of students from Alberta to other province is sensational in nature."

Gerry Turcotte, president of Calgary's St. Mary's University College, said while he's "dismayed" at cuts to the post-secondary sector, he's not certain all students are looking outside of Alberta for an alternative to major universities.

His 700-student institution, for example, has seen a 21 per cent rise in applications for the fall that he believes is being driven — at least partially — by uncertainty over enrolment at other universities.

"We tend to get overlooked," Turcotte said. "People don't realize we're here, or that we're a fully fledged university offering degrees."

On Monday, the U of S said it expects one-sixth of its new class to be from Alberta this fall, a 15 per cent increase year-over-year. The U of R, meanwhile, said applications from Calgary alone had doubled.

Lukaszuk, however, said Alberta always has surplus applicants at its schools, and questioned why our neighbours to the east would be so keen to draw out-of-province students.

He added, "I'm glad that they're spending hard-earned, Saskatchewan taxpayers' money in Alberta — and let them do more of it."

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