Bill 19 took the words right out of our mouths. “An Act to Improve the Affordability and Accessibility of Post-Secondary Education” succinctly captures the foundational pillars of advocacy for the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS).
The details of this bill have encouraged students across the province to take pause and consider both the incredulity of its contents, while also realizing that these steps need to be taken in order to achieve a post-secondary system that remains competitive and sustainable.
The most impactful takeaways surround tuition regulation. Without a long-term solution following the tuition freeze, students remained fearful about their ability to afford and complete their education. Upon implementation, the bill will offer security to domestic students entering or continuing their education past the 2020-21 academic year, regulating increases by no more than the consumer price index. In the meantime, students will benefit from one last extension to the tuition freeze for the 2019-20 academic year.
CAUS has also advocated for protections that include international students, as the compounding socioeconomic factors surrounding their enrolment have often left them vulnerable on multiple fronts. These provincial regulations take additional steps to protect international students and keep them from experiencing arbitrary increases to their tuition. Moving forward, they will be guaranteed the cost of their entire education at the offer of admission, attracting more international students who enhance the quality of education with a wealth of knowledge and diverse experience.
Additionally, student representation has always been important. In fact, student representation and advocacy is directly responsible for Bill 19. With changes to institutional governance structures that more equitably reflect students, the primary stakeholder group, we are now able to more effectively and meaningfully engage in decision-making that affects our everyday reality.
Overall, we’re thrilled to see these changes come forward and gain support across all stakeholder groups, but that doesn’t mean our work here is done. Regulations surrounding tuition and fees are only one part of addressing financial barriers for students, and we still believe that improvements to the student financial aid system in Alberta will have the biggest impact on the most vulnerable.
Last but not least, we know the devil hides in the details, and CAUS is eager to learn more about what the regulations surrounding mandatory non-instructional fees will yield. Consequently, all of this will amount to nothing if we don’t see commitments for supplementary efforts such as backfill funding and adequate operational grants to maintain the quality of education.
Nonetheless, this is an incredible win for students across the province and a testament to the unrelenting dedication of student movements, one that we are proud to lead!