20
October
2016
|
22:34
Europe/Amsterdam

Government freezes tuition fees for another year, announces review

UAlberta administrators hopeful review will lead to predictable and sustainable funding.

By MICHAEL BROWN

The provincial government announced yesterday it is extending its post-secondary tuition freeze to a third year while it undertakes a tuition review.

The hold on tuition through the 2017-18 academic year, announced by Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt, was welcome news for the contingent of students on hand in the University of Alberta’s Students’ Union building taking in the proceedings.

Schmidt said the resulting freeze will save the province’s 250,000 public post-secondary students roughly $16 million next year.

Under the previous provincial tuition fee regulations, which tied how much a post-secondary institution could increase tuition in a given year to the consumer price index, U of A provost Steven Dew said the university would have generated about $4 million in new revenue.

During the preceding two-year tuition freeze, the provincial government offset the revenue lost by post-secondary institutions by increasing overall funding and providing tuition backfill, a practice Dew is optimistic will continue.

In his remarks, he thanked the government for its earlier support, noting that the investment represented an important step towards increasing access to post-secondary education and training for all Alberta's students, including under-represented groups like Indigenous students, rural students and adult learners.

“We're hopeful the province will continue to be able to compensate us,” said Dew. “Otherwise, we'll have to re-examine the budget to keep the impacts to a minimum."

Dew added the university welcomes the opportunity to be part of the process as the provincial government proceeds with its funding review for the sector.

"We look forward to working with students, sector partners and the government to achieve the model needed to ensure the high quality of education that will build long-term prosperity for all Albertans."

The freeze is the latest in a series of moves by the province to restore funding levels to post-secondary education in Alberta while making education more affordable. Shortly after being elected in 2015, Premier Rachel Notley’s government reversed a 1.4 per cent cut to post-secondary education and increased base funding by two per cent, to go with the tuition hold.

Students’ Union president Fahim Rahman praised the province for today’s move.

“Students and the students’ union have been sending the same message for decades now, that tuition and fees are unaffordable and deter our access to universities and colleges,” said Rahman.

Schmidt said the government has been listening, adding that Alberta’s post-secondary stakeholders are in the best position to help shape what Alberta needs for the future.

“This review will ensure a long-term solution to keep education accessible and affordable for Albertans,” said the minister.

The tuition review will proceed in two stages. In stage one, the government will solicit feedback from stakeholders through a discussion guide and website as well as regular stakeholder meetings, which will be held through to December.

From there, Advanced Education and a more targeted stakeholder advisory group made up of representatives from public post-secondary institutions, student advocacy groups and industry will meet to interpret and assess the consultation feedback, help shape options for tuition and fees, and identify implementation considerations for the department to bear in mind when drafting options.

A new approach to tuition and fees is anticipated to take effect for the 2018-19 academic year.