Before a crowd of students on SUBstage, Minister of Advanced Education Marlin Schmidt announced that Alberta’s tuition freeze through the 2017-18 academic year.
The freeze will protect all Alberta post-secondary students from tuition increases until September 2018, which the government estimates will save “250,000 full and part-time students and apprentices roughly $16 million dollars per year.”
In addition to renewing the freeze, the government is offering a website to gather feedback for creating a model for university tuition that works in the long term. MLA for Edmonton South-West Thomas Dang, a University of Alberta student before he was elected, said the freeze would bring students security.
“We do a lot of work with the ministry, and the minister has been very open to having two-way dialogues with us as MLAs,” Dang said. “The open consultations make the dialogues a bit broader as well.”
Schmidt said that though the tuition freeze adds short-term predictability for students, his government plans to have a new tuition model in place for the 2018-19 academic year. This time next year, Schmidt said the consultation process will be complete, and recommendations will have been made to cabinet.
When it came to the conversation of decreasing tuition, Schmidt emphasized that the government had no pre-conceived notions surrounding the results of the consultation process.
“We want everyone to bring forward their best ideas, and we’ll use the best options that are brought forward to us,” Schmidt said.
When asked what it would take to decrease tuition, Schmidt said that “a substantial increase in the resources that are available to us as a government” would be required to allow post-secondaries to cover the funding deficits caused by decreased tuition revenue.
Students’ Union President Fahim Rahman said he would be “disappointed” if no changes are seen in post-secondary after the consultation process. He also said that lessening the burden of other costs like textbooks, rent, and food for students should be examined to lower the financial strain.
Rahman said he would like to see several things happen to maintain predictability in student costs.
“What I would look for … would be entrenching consistent and sustainable increases to tuition, like only increasing by inflation,” Rahman said.
Rahman spoke in favour of “revamping or disbanding entirely” the market modifier approval system, which allows certain faculties to charge students more for tuition. For Rahman, not having market modifiers would give students “a lot more predictability and sustainability with their tuition.”