Skyrocketing tuition, spiraling student debt, and underpaid and precarious academic workers are characteristics of Alberta’s post-secondary education system. But things are improving under the current NDP government.

AFL Director of Policy Development Susan Cake spoke to CUPE Alberta delegates about the state of Alberta’s post-secondary education system, saying that recent investments in post-secondary education are making a difference, but that there is “much, much more to do.”

Cake said previous Conservative governments moved debt from government to students and their families by letting tuition and other fees increase by as much as 50 per cent annually.

After the Notley government was elected, the NDP introduced a tuition freeze and increased funding to universities, colleges and trade schools.

“Now students can anticipate what their education will cost,” said Cake.

Cake said that while tuition has increased, and senior administrative salaries have been grossly inflated, the people doing the actual instruction of students have become increasingly marginalized.

According to Cake, 50 per cent of students are taught by contract and sessional faculty, and increasingly sessionals cannot move to tenure track positions. Tenured staff can cost between $65-$150,000 while contractors make as little as $28,000 per year.

“When a university is selling its unspoken promise, that education leads to a better life, we’re not even seeing it among its own academic staff,” said Cake.