Edmonton, AB (October 25, 2019) - Yesterday afternoon, the provincial government unveiled its budget and plans for the post-secondary education system in Alberta. To the deep disappointment of the Students’ Union, this budget contained numerous provisions which will negatively impact the affordability and accessibility of education at the University of Alberta. Tuition across the university is expected to rise by 21% over the next three years, with possible increases of up to 30% in some programs, while student loan interest rates will be hiked and post-secondary tax credits will be eliminated.
“The combined effect of these decisions cannot be overstated,” said Adam Brown, Vice-President (External) of the Students’ Union. “Based on the changes to tuition, student loans, and tax credits alone, an undergraduate student entering the University of Alberta next fall will face an increased net cost of at least $9,000 for their degree. Students are already stretched thin trying to pay for a quality education here in Alberta, and this budget will undoubtedly make it even more difficult for them and their families.”
Students’ access to high-quality and meaningful work experience during their programs also saw a setback, with the cancellation of the Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP). The program, which was active for all-but-three years since 1972, annually funded thousands of summer work experience positions for post-secondary students.
“The cutting of STEP is another big loss, for students as well as Alberta employers,” Brown continued. “Just since its re-introduction in 2016, STEP created over 12,000 summer positions for students between thousands of employers, many of whom agreed that they could not have hired students without the program. For a government that says it is focused on expanding employment opportunities, especially for youth and students, the choice to cut STEP simply makes no sense.”
Further compounding difficulties that students will face as a result of the budget are decreases to government grants for post-secondary institutions. The University of Alberta is facing $79 million in cuts for this year alone: $44 million in operating funding and $35 million from the Infrastructure Maintenance Program. The budget projects further decreases to both operating and capital funding in the coming years.
“I am incredibly concerned about the impact that these cuts are going to have on the quality of instruction, services, and student spaces here at the U of A,” said Akanksha Bhatnagar, President of the Students’ Union. “Previous funding shortfalls have seen student priorities brushed aside, and we cannot let that continue to happen. I will do all that I can inside the institution and at the Board of Governors to ensure that student interests are protected.”
The Students’ Union is the official representative of more than 32,000 undergraduate students at the University of Alberta.
For more information, or to arrange an interview, contact:
External Advocacy Advisor
University of Alberta Students’ Union