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The Alberta government is promising a total of $70 million over the next three years to add another 4,900 seats to five Edmonton-area post-secondary institutions.

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The money, announced Thursday by Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides, will support the expansion of more than 20 programs, including in business, engineering, health, IT and early learning, at Concordia University of Edmonton, MacEwan University, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, NorQuest College, and the University of Alberta.

“It will ensure students can participate in these high demand programs as early as this September and it will ensure that Edmonton has the talent that it needs to continue to thrive,” the minister said.

The lion’s share of the cash — $48.3 million — is going to the University of Alberta to create more than 3,200 new spaces in science, engineering, nursing and business programs.

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“Expanding enrollment in the University of Alberta’s high-demand business, engineering, science and nursing programs ensures Alberta’s talented high school graduates have the opportunity to further their education right here at home at one of Canada’s top research-intensive universities,” university president and vice-chancellor Bill Flanagan said in a press release.

The money is part of the $600-million Alberta at Work program announced in this year’s budget and comes days after Nicolaides promised $4 million for 400 additional seats in colleges in northeastern Alberta.

In total, the government has promised to create 10,000 new post-secondary spaces across Alberta.

Bill Werry, the executive director of the Council of Post-Secondary Presidents of Alberta, told Postmedia Thursday that the money was a step in the right direction and praised the government for how quickly it allocated the cash after it was announced in the budget.

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“They’ve been targeted at the highest demand areas and so we’re pleased with the direction that this sets,” he said.

“It’s definitely a turnaround from what we’ve experienced over the last three years with respect to funding from the province so on that side of it we’re happy about it. Is there room for growth? We believe there is.”

In 2019 the council recommended that Alberta should aim for an additional 90,000 students by 2025. On Thursday Werry said they plan to refine that number soon taking into account the way the last several years of a pandemic have changed the way education is delivered through in-person, online, and hybrid models.

NDP critic for advanced education David Eggen criticized the government for announcing this funding after Nicolaides recently approved a number of significant tuition hikes.

“These announcements in Edmonton are deeply hypocritical. While announcing support for early learning and child care, IT, health care, engineering and business, the minister of advanced education approved exceptional tuition increases in these very areas at the institutions they claim to support,” Eggen said in a statement.

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Twitter.com/ashleyjoannou

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