Alberta government extends post-secondary tuition freeze

The tuition freeze for post-secondary students in Alberta is being extended for another year. The freeze will continue for the 2017-18 academic year while the government reviews the province's tuition and fee model.

About 250,000 full- and part-time students and apprentices will benefit from extended tuition freeze

Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt announced an extended tuition freeze on Wednesday. (CBC)

The tuition freeze for post-secondary students in Alberta will continue for the 2017-18 academic year, while the government conducts a tuition review.

An estimated 250,000 full- and part-time students and apprentices will save roughly $16 million a year through the freeze on tuition and fees, the government said on Wednesday.
University of Alberta student Hachem El-Sayed says it's a struggle to pay for everything from books to rent, even though he has a full time job.

"This review will ensure a long-term solution to keep education accessible and affordable for Albertans," Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt said. 

For biological science student Hachem El-Sayed, the news comes as a relief. He works 40 hours a week at Walmart and has a full course load. He said paying for the basics of an education is a real struggle.

"I got three books, two of them were used," he said. "I paid $610, and that's normal. Sometimes, $610 is the difference between 'do you want that book or do you want to pay rent?' "

University of Alberta provost Steven Dew said a modest one-per-cent tuition increase will mean $2.7 million less in funding coming in. He said the university is hopeful the provincial government will make up the shortfall.

"Otherwise we will have to re-examine our budget in a way that does not impact students much," said Dew. "But there will inevitably be an impact as we would have to cut our budget."

The provincial government has said post-secondary institutions can count on stable funding going forward, and has signaled that they won't see any surprises in the budget. 

However Wildrose advanced education critic Wes Taylor said in a news release the NDP government  is being "short-sighted" in its approach to post-secondary education costs.

Taylor said "indexing post secondary tuition and fee increases to the rate of inflation is the very best way to ensure tuition remains affordable for students and to protect the viability of Alberta's world-class education institutions."

Taylor added the tuition freeze was another example of the NDP taking "risky and ideological approaches to issues that need strong solutions."

The review will cover topics such as mandatory non-instructional fees, international student tuition, student aid and long-term planning for post-secondary costs.

Several student organizations welcomed the announcement.

Students and others can provide feedback at tuitionreview.alberta.ca.

The government will also meet with institutions and student groups for feedback.