NDP warns report portends huge tuition hikes for post-secondary students | Edmonton Journal
As Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley warned students of likely university tuition hikes, University of Alberta students Lochlann Kerr and Deven Shukle were thinking about their younger brothers.
Both in their second year of university, and with education savings plans to draw upon, the students say their siblings will bear the financial pain of Alberta’s likely vanishing post-secondary tuition freeze.
If tuition rises, as University of Alberta president David Turpin warned Tuesday it would, low-income students will be most affected, said Kerr, 19.
“That is incredibly frustrating to me,” he said. “I know the university’s in a hard spot with that … I would like to see the president fight harder for an affordable education.”
In a Tuesday address to the university, Turpin said, “The balance between tuition increases on the one hand … and cuts on the other, will be one of the most significant decisions our board will make in the coming year.”
He said a “meaningful portion” of any tuition increase would be set aside for a needs-based bursary program for low-income students.
The university president pointed to a blue ribbon panel report into Alberta’s spending led by former Saskatchewan finance minister Janice MacKinnon. It recommended the United Conservative Party government lift the tuition freeze introduced in 2015 by the former NDP government.
The panel also recommended Alberta change the makeup of post-secondary institution funding to be more like Ontario and B.C., which draw in more revenue from tuition and less from government grants.
While Alberta institutes, colleges and universities draw 18 per cent of their funding from tuition, Ontario universities rely on students for 35 per cent of their funds, the panel’s report said.
Although the provincial government has not said which MacKinnon recommendations it plans to act upon, Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said last week he agreed with the report’s findings.
NDP raises alarm about rising tuition
Hearing Turpin’s talk of rising tuition, finding efficiencies and potential cuts at the university prompted Notley and Opposition advanced education critic David Eggen to summon reporters to the university’s student union building on Wednesday.
If government follows the recommendations of the MacKinnon panel, tuition in Alberta could double, Notley said — an assumption the government called “desperate fearmongering.”
Access to post-secondary programs would be cordoned behind a “gilded wall made of platinum Visa cards,” Notley said.
“Post-secondary education in Alberta will be significantly undermined and significantly redesigned in order to promote the values of elitism and privilege at the expense of regular Alberta families and their kids,” she said.
Alberta had the highest tuition fees in the country until the freeze, she said. Now they’re third-lowest in the country.
Although the freeze remains in effect to date, Nicolaides’ press secretary, Laurie Chandler, said Wednesday that “stakeholders” have told government continuing the freeze will negatively affect education quality and student services.
The government can’t keep spending money it doesn’t have, Chandler said. At last fiscal update, government said Alberta’s debt was $62.7 million.
In the 2018 budget, the former government increased post-secondary funding by $17 million to offset a tuition freeze.
More information about the future of tuition is likely to come in the provincial budget on Oct. 24.
“Any decisions will take into account student affordability and accessibility, but claims of doubling tuition are outrageous and false,” Chandler said.
This content was originally published here.