CALGARY – Today’s provincial budget misses the mark and loses an opportunity to enhance the lacklustre inflationary supports announced by the province earlier this month. Budget 2023 continues a familiar theme with this provincial government: Students are left out and left behind.
Earlier in February, the provincial government announced disappointing student supports, including a cap to tuition increases, not starting until 2024, and an increase to the Alberta Student Grant. These measures are too little too late for students who have faced the fastest and largest increases to tuition and other expenses in Alberta’s history, thanks directly to provincial cuts. The SU estimates that tuition alone has increased by 33% since 2019 and by about 40% for international students. This equates to about $1,200 and $6,000 more per year for domestic and international students, respectively. These increases come with no increase to education quality. Budget 2023 fails to expand supports for students or make the recently announced measures effective.
“The SU has made it clear to the provincial government that students are at a breaking point. They haven’t listened,” says SU President Nicole Schmidt. “Students are choosing between their education and basics like food and housing. This should not happen in Alberta. This government has failed to address the concerns of students and it’s clear that this budget is no different. The province can and should do better.”
The programs announced by the province also leave huge loopholes for universities to exploit. Students pay mandatory fees in addition to tuition. These fees are not included in the provincial tuition increase cap. This means that universities will simply make up for the tuition cap by increasing mandatory fees at a faster rate. Mandatory fees have increased by about 20% since 2019. International student tuition is also not capped, meaning university administration can continue to use international students as cash cows to fund operations.
Very few students will receive the provincial financial supports announced earlier this month, as those supports are tied to family or household income, rather than the student’s income alone. Students who are not actually receiving support from their families for their education may not qualify for these new programs.
“The provincial government has implemented a double standard,” says President Schmidt. “They have tied student supports to the income of parents and phase out these supports much sooner than other Alberta families. After neglecting student needs and increasing student costs for four years, this government is trying to make up for it with one swing. This isn’t good enough.”
Most students will not be eligible for this provincial support. For example, a family of four will receive less or no support after their income tops $66,000. By comparison the general inflationary supports announced last fall stop at a family income of $180,000.
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