Alberta’s tuition third highest in country

Statistics Canada reports that, as a result of more provinces instituting some form of a tuition freeze, the average undergraduate arts tuition only went up three per cent in Canada this year–an increase significantly lower than the average increase in previous years.

In Alberta, the average tuition increase is five per cent, the third highest in the country. University of Calgary Students’ Union President Toby White connects the high cost of tuition in Alberta to a lack of government funding.

"Despite being one of the richest provinces in Canada, the Alberta government spends close to the least on post-secondary education," said White. "Where’s the ‘Alberta advantage’ when it comes to higher education?"

The Ministry of Learning believes its policies and funding levels address the issue of student affordability in Alberta.

"We believe our tuition is very comparable to the rest of the country," said ministry spokesman Randy Kilburn. "Students do pay a portion of their education, but they also receive a benefit from it."

To deal with affordability, the Ministry of Learning remits all government student loan debt over $20,000 for a four-year degree.

"The issue for this ministry is not tuition, it is student debt," explained Kilburn. "We feel this is a better way to attack tuition fees than a tuition freeze."

White feels the ministry’s assertion that tuition is not the problem neglects to consider that students look at institutions outside of the province.

"As far as competitiveness goes that theory does not work at all," said White. "Students shop around for price when selecting a university."

In March, Learning Minister Lyle Oberg announced that a committee would review post-secondary funding in the province over the summer; this committee is now looking at tuition as a sub-issue in its review. However, Kilburn does not foresee any large changes in ministry policy.

"Those students and families in the province who can afford to pay should," said Kilburn. "Those who can’t afford to pay receive support from taxpayers in terms of scholarships, bursaries and loans."

The Council of Alberta University Students, of which the U of C SU is a member, has called on the ministry to freeze tuition increases at two per cent. As of yet, CAUS has not met with Oberg to discuss the proposal. White hopes the examples of action taken in other provinces will help the argument for a tuition freeze.

"If provinces in a lot poorer funding situations than Alberta can invest more in education, I don’t think it is too much to ask the Alberta government to put more back into universities.""

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