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Lots of work left for affordable post-secondary: UCalgary SU

Alberta announced several affordability changes for post-secondary schools, including a two per cent tuition increase cap starting in 2024/25.

University of Calgary’s students’ union said the announcement of government support for learners is welcome, but it’s just the start of a bigger conversation on post-secondary costs.

The province announced Thursday they would be capping domestic tuition increases at two per cent starting in 2024/25, reducing interest rates on loans to prime rate, doubling the student loan interest-free period from six to 12 months and increasing the threshold for repayment assistance from $25,000 to $40,000.

“High inflation has made life more expensive for all Albertans, including post-secondary students. These new measures will help all students deal with higher costs during these challenging times,” said Alberta Minister of Advanced Education, Demetrios Nicolaides, in a prepared release.

The province is also increasing the Alberta Student Grant by $225 per month for each eligible student for the 2022/23 loan year.

Alberta NDP Advanced Education critic David Eggen said the UCP removed the tuition cap they brought in and cut hundreds of million from Alberta post-secondary funding.  Meanwhile students have seen tuition increases of nearly 30 per cent since the UCP took office,” Eggen said.

“Students are struggling to make ends meet as tuition and the cost of living have increased dramatically under the UCP — putting post-secondary education out of reach for many Albertans,” Eggen said.

Earlier this year, the University of Calgary approved a 5.5 per cent increase for domestic undergrad tuition. Nursing saw an eight per cent increase and international students saw a 10 per cent increase.

UCalgary students still at breaking point: SU

UCalgary Students’ Union president Nicole Schmidt said while Thursday’s announcement is welcome, it’s a “drop in the bucket” when compared with the rising costs students face.

“Today’s announcement of supports is positive but this cannot be the end of the discussion when it comes to affordability and accessibility to post-secondary in Alberta,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said the tuition cap is welcome, but it comes after a 33 per cent increase in tuition since 2019, and 20 per cent increase to mandatory fees.

The SU’s VP External Mateusz Salmassi also said the province’s announcement leaves out international students.

“International tuition remains unregulated, and today’s announcement makes it easy for universities to continue using international students as cash cows to fund university operations. This needs to change,” he said.

The SU was also happy to see the loan rate back to prime.

“It is positive to see them reverse this bad policy, but interest rates never should have increased,” Schmidt said.