Hundreds of students from across the province paraded across the High Level Bridge in Edmonton Thursday to protest new fees being considered by post-secondary institutions.
University of Alberta students are facing a $550 fee on top of tuition to help administration cope with a $59-million budget deficit.
"We say no, 5-5-0," they chanted as they marched from the university to the legislature during the noon hour.
"We're here to talk about market modifiers and fee increases that we're likely to see next year," said Beverly Eastham, chair of the Council of Alberta University Students to the students assembled at the steps to the legislature.
Market modifiers are another way tuitions could rise dramatically for some faculties. The university is comparing what students pay for similar programs at other schools. If the base tuition is higher elsewhere, the university proposes to increase what it charges — by as much as 66 per cent in some professional faculties.
"We believe that investment in post-secondary education is going to pull us out of the recession," said Jeremy Girard, president of the students' union at the University of Lethbridge.
"Statistics show that people with degrees increase and stabilize the tax revenues of the province."
Girard said cuts to university budgets would inevitably hurt the quality of education.
'We've been asked to find millions of dollars worth of efficiencies in our budget," he said. 'Well, efficiencies at the university means almost a 10 per cent reduction of staff."
'I applaud their passion'
"I applaud their passion, I applaud the ability for them to muster and come over to the [legislature]," said Doug Horner, Alberta's minister of advanced education and technology.
The minister said he has sympathy for what the students are looking at when it comes to the increasing cost of education, and has been meeting with student groups for the past year to talk about the issue.
As for the new fee proposed by the University of Alberta, Horner said other institutions are looking at the idea. But he added government has no interest in taking away the power of university boards to levy non-academic fees.
"We're talking about one proposal from one institution, is so far what's on the table," he said. "And again, we don't cap ancillary fees because those are fees based on cost recovery."