University of Calgary students have started a letter writing campaign, asking the province not to raise tuition fees for some professional programs while capping increases on others.

In 2006, the government capped tuition to the inflation rate for 10 years, but Advanced Education Minister Doug Horner recently said he is open to tuition increases for some programs.

So far, no institution has formally applied for permission, but Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and the University of Alberta in Edmonton are reportedly considering hikes.

"Any proposal would have to have a very strong business case. It would have to be reasonable. It would have to be fair," Horner said Tuesday. "So we're not going to be just willy-nilly saying yes to anything that crosses the desk. We're going to be very, very tough on these things."

Alberta's postsecondary institutions won't get extra money from the province next year or the year after, he said.

"It's about making sure we have the system right to start with so we can actually ensure the cap for future students," he said.

The University of Alberta, coping with a $59-million budget shortfall, is considering hikes of as much as 66 per cent for some of its professional programs, according to its student union.

NAIT, facing a $2.3-million budget shortfall, has proposed a 40 per cent increase in tuition over the next three years in its latest business plan.

Students to meet with Horner

The University of Calgary, which ended the 2008-09 year with a deficit of $14.3 million, hasn't commented on its tuition plans. But the student union is already urging members to participate in a letter writing campaign.

"We're creating a system where students are paying different amounts for different programs, so my concern there is career and educational choices will be prescribed by the ability to pay," student union president Charlotte Kingston said.

Kingston and other student leaders in Alberta plan to meet with Horner next month.

The idea of higher tuition for some programs doesn't sit well with student Breanna Marich, who works a full-time job while going to the University of Calgary.

"Not too impressed, I guess. Especially because I know I have heard a lot of the tuition goes to upper administration and towards their payrolls."

Parent Vic Kalinka, who has a son at the University of Alberta and another at the University of Calgary, said the provincial government doesn't understand the realities of being a student today.

"I've talked to many students who are doing it alone and working at several jobs to make it work. And I think they've lost sight of the needs and challenges of a student."