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Alberta government extends post-secondary tuition freeze another year

Freeze will help NDP government flesh out a review of tuition and fees across Alberta post-secondary schools

Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt is planning to review how tuition fees are decided, to make cash flow more predictable for cash-strapped Alberta students.

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Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt is planning to review how tuition fees are decided, to make cash flow more predictable for cash-strapped Alberta students.

Students can breathe easy for another year, as the Alberta government extended their tuition freeze until fall 2018 – but some institutions may be concerned.

The NDP government first announced its tuition freeze in June 2015, and it was set to expire after the 2016-17 academic year. In each tuition freeze so far, the schools were given cash as backfill in order to maintain funding levels, but the budget for the government’s latest freeze hasn’t been established.

According to the Minister of Advanced Education, Marlin Schmidt, this freeze will give the government more time to complete a review of Alberta's fee and tuition model, which would include directives on how to "increase post-secondary costs fairly."

"We want to make sure we have enough time to consult adequately on sustainable tuition and fee models,” said Schmidt. “This will give us the breathing room to provide stability to the costs of education for students while we conduct complete consultations."

But Schmidt noted they haven’t made a decision about whether or not they will be providing cash to institutions for backfill.

“We’ve made it clear we continue to provide stable and predictable funding for institutions,” said Schmidt. “There won’t be any surprises to institutions in this budget, regardless of the decision that’s made.”

David Docherty, president of Mount Royal University voiced concern in a statement he released Wednesday.

“We understand the decision of the government in terms of extending the tuition freeze in this economic climate,” said Docherty. “It’s important to recognize that our costs for providing quality programs and services to students continue to rise.”

He added an extension of backfill would also help institutions like MRU continue to provide quality programming to students.

Tuition and fee model review

The tuition freeze marks a kicking off point for one of the government’s reviews into Alberta’s post-secondary system.

Minister Marlin Schmidt said he’s launching consultation with key stakeholders to look at discussions around tuition, school funding, mandatory non-instructional fees, international tuition and will take a look at student aid.

Dexter Bruneau, The Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) chair, said students are excited about the tuition freeze, but eagerly anticipating the province’s review.

One of the suggestions CAUS has for the government is to look back on tuition costs from 1992, and calculate how much tuition would cost in present day had the government raised costs with the consumer price difference – they didn’t.

“There were tremendous increases we saw as arbitrary,” said Bruneau. He said if tuition had been following a predictable path, students would be paying between $2,100 and $2,200 today instead of Alberta’s $5,700 average.

As for the Adult Learning Review, the province is taking a different approach.

“There isn’t an adult learning review as such, but all of the components of the Adult learning review have been broken up into separate discussions,” said Schmidt. “We want to achieve some outcomes rather than launching an overall review that was so broad the likelihood of achieving anything was low.”

The tuition review will be wrapped up by fall 2017, and schools are chomping at the bit to participate in talks.

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