Media releases | April 06, 2023

EDMONTON - Today, the Alberta NDP hosted a press conference where they made a campaign commitment to lowering tuition for post-secondary education. Progressive advocacy organization Public Interest Alberta is concerned that the policy does not go far enough to address the issues facing Alberta’s post-secondary students. 

“Post-secondary students in Alberta are suffering so any announcement of a reduction in tuition is sure to be a welcome relief,” said Bradley Lafortune, Public Interest Alberta’s Executive Director. “Students are feeling the brunt of massive tuition increases — up to about 20% over the last few years — combined with the squeeze of the cost of living crisis.” 

“However, we’re concerned that the announced NDP policies come nowhere close to addressing the structural issues facing Alberta students and our post-secondary institutions,” said Lafortune. “The NDP has announced they will freeze tuition at 2022 - 2023 levels, but this is already up around 20% from where they were in 2019. This is not the answer we need.”

Lafortune continued,  “Students in Alberta graduate with some of the highest debt loads in the country and our participation rates are historically the lowest in the country. In other places in the world, post-secondary is invested in as an integral and barrier-free public service and a major economic driver. Students aren’t expected to take out astronomical loans to cover tuition — loans that end up taking years or decades to pay off, kneecapping graduates’ abilities to buy homes, start businesses, or start a family.”  

“Additionally, tangible relief for international students isn’t on the agenda until a long-term review of PSE takes place,” said Lafortune. “The way post-secondary institutions treat international students is abhorrent. We need to see major and immediate interventions to stop treating these students like cash cows to supplement the operational funding deficit dealt by the UCP. These students are particularly vulnerable to the multiple crises we’re facing. For example, the Campus Food Bank at the University of Alberta is experiencing record-breaking numbers of requests for their services and estimate that 70 per cent of their clients are international students.” 

“The UCP’s reckless agenda of cuts and privatization threaten to do generational damage to our prized post-secondary institutions,” said Lafortune. “They’ve delivered blow after blow to the post-secondary sector, slashing at operational funding, driving up tuition, and appointing their friends to the boards to continue their agenda. Any political party trying to reverse this damage is taking a small step in the right direction. But we need to demand more for Alberta’s students.” 

“We need to dream bigger,” said Lafortune. “We don’t even see conversations about tuition rollbacks, let alone big ideas like tuition-free post-secondary – why not? It happens all over the world. Why not here?”  

Ahead of the upcoming provincial election, Public Interest Alberta is advocating for its priorities for change. On post-secondary education, these priorities include reversing past policies that have transferred costs to students and enhancing the accessibility of post-secondary for all through:

  • Large-scale and long-term reinvestment in post-secondary institutions: both increasing operating funding and student bursary/grant funding 
  • Strictly regulating increases to tuition and mandatory non-instructional fees
  • End the systemic practice of precarious employment for faculty, librarians, academic staff, and support staff at post-secondary institutions to improve conditions for students in their research and education 
  • Restoring the support staff levels to pre-UCP levels in order to increase student services, research capabilities, and teaching capacities at our institutions 
  • Increasing provincial research funding, including creating a provincial research funding body for graduate students to increase Albertan labs/project and commercial and non-commercial research capacity while setting up our graduate students for success 
  • Collaborating with partners to explore a tuition-free model of post-secondary education, in order to help Alberta adapt to a fast-changing global economy and address accessibility challenges (especially for underrepresented groups) 
  • Increasing the program spaces in our universities and colleges to accommodate the increased population of high school students that will be entering our system in a few years
  • Provide subsidized, high-speed internet to all regions of the province so students can participate in distance learning and regular programming