Taking NotesTaking Notes: Eye on Education – Alberta Tuition Freeze Thaws

This column focuses on a wide range of issues affecting post-secondary students. Students are encouraged to submit suggestions and educational topics they are concerned about, or personal experiences with courses or university situations they feel other students should know about. If suggest a topic or a course alert for taking notes, contact voice@ausu.org, attn: Debbie Jabbour

ALBERTA TUITION FREEZE THAWS

Premier’s Ralph Klein’s recent announcement of a 2005-2006 tuition freeze for Alberta residents was welcome news. However, there has been little clarity regarding details and whether the freeze will continue beyond a single year. There has been some fear among university administration and student representatives that the freeze will simply lead to even greater tuition hikes in the next few years. At an Advanced Education forum this past week, Advanced Education Minister Dave Hancock suggested these fears might become reality. He warned students to prepare for a fall tuition increase, commenting that an extension of this year’s freeze would cost $96 million, money that would be better spent on increasing access (Edmonton Journal, November 3, 2005).

Premier Ralph Klein, however, has now promised that the freeze will remain in place for the 2006-2007 school year, arguing that the intent of the government’s Access to the Future Act is that tuition must remain affordable. The Premier has even floated a suggested that a long-term tuition freeze might be in the works (Edmonton Journal, November 5, 2005) (ed: it’s not yet clear if this will be a real freeze, where tuition does not rise, or another rebate system where the government reimburses universities for tuition increases above a threshold).

Although schools received an additional $43 million from the government to cover the proposed tuition fee increases, escalating energy costs may well consume any benefits to students. The University of Alberta has already expressed concern that rising natural gas prices have caused a $10 million shortfall. Alberta students, who pay the second highest tuition rates in Canada, continue to await the outcome of Klein’s promise to Albertans of the “most affordable tuition in Canada.”

References
Plan for tuition increase, Hancock tells students: Double bump of increase upon increase rapped by critics. Edmonton Journal, November 3, 2005, B6.
Tuition freeze to stay for next school year: Klein says students need affordable education. Edmonton Journal, November 5, 2005, A6.

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