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Tuition freeze frozen in place

The Alberta NDP government has maintained a post-secondary tuition freeze in an effort to build a foundation of affordability for students.

“A lot of potential students in Alberta shy away from higher education because of cost. We’re sending a message that the affordability of higher education is really important,” said Marlin Schmidt, minister of advanced education with the government of Alberta.

The original tuition freeze, set in 2015 for Canadian students attending university in Alberta, has been extended into the 2017/2018 school year in order to allow the NDP time to establish a plan of action to prevent students from seeing a tuition hike once the freeze is lifted.

The provincial government has hired an external consultant to study Alberta’s post-secondary funding model, as part of the government’s review of students’ affordability and access to higher education.

“We want to be able to reassure Albertans that they can afford to go to post-secondary education,” said Schmidt.

The report on Alberta post-secondary funding will be released sometime in the fall and help to guide the 2018-19 post-secondary budgeting process.

The minister of advanced education said that the government is concerned with the cost and the associated debt of post-secondary education, along with finding ways to increase and enhance the spaces available in high-demand programs.

Changes will also potentially be made to Student Aid, student loans and other forms of funding available to students.

Schmidt said that the NDP government is committed to making life better for Albertans through increased access and affordability of post-secondary education.

“Bringing tuition down would certainly be a significant investment in the system. We are going to be making sure that we can come up with a system that preserves affordability,” said Schmidt.

The minister said that the tuition freeze, coupled with the recession in Alberta led people to pursue post-secondary education to learn new skills to create new opportunities.

“We can target the money at those students who need the financial assistance the most,” said Schmidt

By freezing Alberta tuition at 2015 prices, Schmidt said Albertans now pay some of the lowest amounts for post secondary-education in the country.

Statistics Canada places the average price of Albertan tuition at $5,738 in comparison to the national average of $6,191.

Rachel Moershfelder, SAITSA VP External, said, “Schmidt has been great for keeping the conversation rolling with us, however we haven’t had any answers so we would like to see the government figure it out and hear more concrete answers.”

The VP said she believes the tuition freeze has been beneficial for students in the final year of their program, but the provincial government needs to do a better job communicating with students about potential future costs.

The VP also said she viewed the freeze as an indication that the NDP’s concern with affordability of higher education indicates that the provincial government recognizes students as stake-holders.

“We have fear for when the tuition freeze is over. There hasn’t been an answer from the government yet, and to my understanding, the extension of the tuition freeze is so that they could formulate a way to fix that. It’s concerning,” said Moershfelder.

The VP raised concerns that the tuition freeze would lead to unpredictable costs for students, and that changes should be made based on inflation.

“I have mixed feelings about it, because there is excitement right now and there’s relief that the students going to school, as of right now, will be protected,” said Moerschfelder.

She said the main concern is the possibility that tuition could drastically increase when the freeze is lifted.

“I’m thankful that the government has taken these steps and recognized students, but I am fearful for the future.”

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