Almost 5,000 new seats in ‘high demand’ Edmonton post-secondary programs funded

The province is spending $70 million to help Edmonton post-secondary institutions expand enrolment in high-demand programs, like health care, child care, business, IT and engineering.

The University of Alberta will receive $48.3 million, while the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology will get $9.2 million and $1.5 million will go to Concordia University of Edmonton. NorQuest College and MacEwan University will receive $7 and $4 million, respectively.

Those funds will support the addition of more than 4,900 new seats over three years at those institutions, with funds starting to be made available this September.

On Thursday, Demetrios Nicolaides, minister of advanced education, said the province’s investment represented the “largest targeted enrollment expansion in Alberta history.”

“Alberta’s economy is taking off,” Nicolaides said. “Whether in tech, film and television, agriculture, or oil and gas, or engineering, wherever you look, you see strong signs of economic growth.”

“Employers in every corner of our province are expressing concern about not being able to hire the staff that they need,” he added.

In February, the province approached post-secondary institutions to solicit their input on what programs the targeted spending should go toward. Nicolaides said the investment would help address employment pressures in “key economic areas.”

“This investment in the capital region is a win-win,” the minister said.

“It will ensure students can participate in these high-demand programs,” he added, “and it will ensure Edmonton will have the talent it needs to thrive.”

Bill Flanagan, University of Alberta president, said funding enrollment growth is critical as the province grows and more young people seek post-secondary education.

“We need to maximize this opportunity and keep Alberta’s young people right here in the province,” he said. “Give them the opportunity that they need to acquire the skills and the knowledge to thrive in the society and economy of tomorrow.” 

David Eggen, Official Opposition critic for advanced education, said in a statement that the funding announcement paled in comparison to the $690 million in cuts to post-secondary institutions.

“These announcements in Edmonton are deeply hypocritical,” Eggen said, adding that students seeking those same in-demand programs received exceptional tuition increases approved by the minister.

“It has become increasingly difficult for Albertans to advance their education or seek career training due to the UCP’s generational cuts to post-secondary institutions,” he said.

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