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NDP’s tuition review months behind schedule

The Alberta’s New Democratic Party’s tuition review was slated for release in the fall of 2017. Now in the winter of 2018, the review hasn’t been released and no deadline has been specified — and student advocates are worried.

The tuition review, once completed, is supposed to create a new funding framework for post-secondary schools in Alberta, and may create a new system for setting tuition; this can mean for potentially lower or higher tuition fees in the future. In the past two years, the provincial government has extended its domestic student tuition freeze as a short-term solution for keeping tuition low, but has delayed the review’s release

These delays have made student advocates concerned that tuition will be hiked by 25 to 30 per cent after the tuition freeze is lifted.

Students push for the tuition review’s release

Students’ Union vice-president (external) and CAUS chair Reed Larsen said the domestic student tuition freeze is not a long-term solution to the funding issues faced by universities in the province, and that the results of the tuition review are long overdue. Larsen added that the review is supposed to establish a new model for funding post-secondary institutions that would tackle many of the funding issues they face now, such as a lack of regulation.

“Overall, the funding frameworks itself will have a big impact, we’ve heard repeatedly that there is going to be a new model of funding universities that’s a little bit more based in math instead of just random numbers thrown all over the place,” he said.

Larsen added that he and CAUS are concerned that tuition will be hiked by 25 to 30 per cent once the freeze is lifted, as this has happened in other provinces after lengthy tuition freezes.

In a statement emailed to The Gateway, Hon. Marlin Schmidt, the province’s Minister of Advanced Education, said the tuition review’s delay doesn’t hinder the institution’s ability to set their budget for the year. The statement also said the cause of the delay was because the ministry knows “(it needs) to take the time to get this right.”

While the government did not provide a timeline for the review’s release, Larsen said it’s now been tentatively set for spring 2018.

“We appreciate that UAlberta students want to hear the results of the tuition review, and I look forward to announcing new developments in the coming months,” Schmidt said.

University to proceed with 2018-19 budgeting process

While student advocates are expressing concern over the delays, the university still plans on moving ahead with its own budgeting process. It has already started to prepare for the uncertainty over future funding by taking a four per cent cut to its operating budget next year.

U of A provost Steven Dew said the university must work off the fact that tuition for domestic students will still be kept frozen, and that the government has promised backfill for the revenue hole. Since that doesn’t cover international students, the university plans on increasing international student tuition by 3.14 per cent at the Board of Governors meeting in March.

Dew said the tuition review was expected in fall 2017 so the university could apply it for the 2018-19 year as budgeting normally begins in November. He said that since budgeting has been pushed to March, one consequence was that they were not able to advertise their actual tuition to students when they normally do.

As for when he expects the tuition review, Dew said it was a question for the government and looks forward to a “well-thought document that will arrive when it arrives.”

“It provides us with some uncertainties but if we could predict the price of oil that would also be helpful, but we can’t,” Dew said.

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