On Thursday, Nov. 30, amid the bustle of exam prep and final projects, Alberta college and university students received some good news. Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt was on-site at MacEwan University to announce the post-secondary tuition freeze will be extended for another year.
“Our government is proud to announce an extension to the tuition and fee freeze for university and college students for a fourth year, to the end of the 2018-19 academic year,” Schmidt announced to attendees.
The freeze applies to all public post-secondary institutions in the province, as well as tuition costs for apprenticeships.
Schmidt added that mandatory non-instructional fees paid by students would also be frozen for the next academic year.
“University tuition in Alberta is now lower than the Canadian average,” he continued. “A university or college student looking to start a four-year degree in Alberta and entering a program with an average tuition rate can expect to pay about $1,500 less over the course of their degree because of our tuition freeze.”
Along with the freeze, the Government of Alberta has committed to issuing backfill payments to post-secondary institutions in order to assist with costs that would have otherwise been covered by tuition increases.
“In the new year, we will be announcing a new tuition framework for Alberta,” said Schmidt. “All of this work is rooted in ensuring that our post-secondary institutions remain focused on being fiscally responsible and able to adapt to Albertans’ growing demands for high-quality, affordable education.”
Schmidt closed the announcement with a wish for students struggling through the end of term: “I hope this news provides relief to students who are heading into exam season and into the new semester.”
Dr. John Corlett, MacEwan’s provost and vice-president academic, reacted to the announcement on behalf of the university.
“As metropolitan Edmonton’s downtown university, we at MacEwan have long been champions in accessibility to and inclusion in advanced education,” said Corlett. “For more than four decades, we have seen firsthand how education transforms lives, builds community, and forms the foundation for the growth of our economy in Alberta.”
Corlett added that the university is committed to working alongside the provincial government in order to provide “stable and predictable funding” for students in Alberta, as well as to continue to “create the advanced education system that our students want and that our province needs.”
Students’ Association Vice President Student Life, Jason Garcia, spoke on behalf of SAMU.
“We at the Students Association of MacEwan University are very happy with the continuation of the freeze with backfill funding provided for the institution,” said Garcia.
He then took a moment to draw attention to those who would not stand to benefit from the announcement. “We would still like to acknowledge that there is still work to be done in many of the areas of affordability and accessibility at this time, especially when we think about those who unfortunately remain unaffected by our tuition freeze, such as our international students population, along with those who are financially planning for their education beyond the next upcoming academic year.”
“We are very excited and committed to moving forward and working with the Government of Alberta and the Ministry of Advanced Education on the next crucial steps to ensuring that education can be fair and equitable for all.”
The announcement was rounded off by a reaction from nursing student Athiang Makuoi, who spoke on behalf of her peers at MacEwan.
“As I entered university, I was hit with the hard reality of how expensive it is to be a full-time student,” Makuoi said. “I fund my education using student loans and paying out of my own pocket, so for me the tuition freeze means affordable education and opportunity.”
She discussed the delicate balancing act that many students face when it comes to managing school work and personal lives, and how tight budgets can be.
“Any unexpected spikes in tuition costs mean that students like me are faced with the obstacle of working off-campus to support basic living costs and school costs while trying to manage our studies.”
The tuition freeze, she said, allows her and many other students to engage in extracurricular activities that they may not have had time for if costs were to increase. These activities allow her to expand her personal learning outside of the classroom.
Makuoi concluded with the sentiment that the freeze in post-secondary costs would offer assistance to a wide variety of Albertans looking to further their studies. “As we continue this discussion about the tuition freeze and a formal education, I think we must remember that access to education should be attainable and fair for everyone.”