After the Alberta government approved 25 of 26 market modifiers, or tuition increase, proposals in December, nothing surprises Students’ Union Vice-President (External) Navneet Khinda.
But it’s still “ridiculous” to see that the Alberta government is floating the idea of possibly eliminating the province’s tuition cap, which regulates the cost of tuition in Alberta post-secondary institutions, she said. Tuition can increase by one to five per cent inflation with the cap, which allows for prediction. The province’s current tuition cap expires in August, 2016. In December, the University of Alberta’s Board of Governors approved a tuition increase of 2.2 per cent.
“Before the tuition cap, tuition could double or triple every year if they wanted it to,” Khinda said.
Khinda, who has been advocating for affordable tuition as VP (External) and Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) this year, said she’s worried that students who are already struggling with financial difficulties would be “shut out” from post-secondary learning.
CAUS and the SU are looking to “make a lot of noise,” and let Albertans know the impacts this could have on future generations of students, Khinda said.
Alberta Premier Jim Prentice said on Feb. 26 that the province is possibly looking at a $7 billion deficit, and that a sustainable revenue model is the main goal of the province and college and university education.
Prentice said the government has been working with post-secondary institutions on what needs to be done to increase revenues and “look at all the options.”
“All Albertans will bear some share of responsibility in terms of dealing with the $7 billion hole in our finances,” Prentice said. “It’s important that we come back to first principles in the case of our education system … that’s going to require for all of us to share some part of that responsibility.”
While running for Alberta Progressive Conservatives leadership last year, Prentice pledged to restore the remaining fund cuts from Alberta’s post-secondary budget in 2013, and that the budget “wouldn’t be balanced on the back of students.”
Khinda said she hasn’t met with the government and Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education since November 2014.
She added that she’s worried about the immediate impact of the possible elimination of the tuition cap, as tuition could “easily increase by 10 per cent.”
“It’s ludicrous if they don’t approve. It’s incredibly short-sighted,” Khinda said. “I think this is the most important priority compared to everything else.
“We talked about market modifiers, but this is 10 times as important. We’re not going to be asking the government to lower tuition, we’re going to be asking them for a tuition cap — and we’re going to ask for that to stay. ”