October 31st, 2020

Post-secondary students voice concerns over budget


By Bobinec, Greg on November 2, 2019.

Greg Bobinec

Lethbridge Herald

gbobinec@lethbridgeherald.com

Alberta’s post-secondary student leaders have issued a joint statement in response to the release of the Government of Alberta 2019-20 budget.

“Tuition increases of up to 22.5 per cent compounded over three years, combined with a student loan interest rate hike and the elimination of tuition and education tax credits, will significantly increase the costs of post-secondary education, causing many Alberta families to sink further into debt,” reads the statement from the Alberta Graduate Provincial Advocacy Council, the Alberta Students’ Executive Council, the Council of Alberta University Students, the Athabasca University Students’ Union, Lethbridge College Students’ Association and the Students’ Association of Lakeland College – collectively representing more than 260,000 post-secondary students from all corners of Alberta.

“While we have significant concerns about affordability and accessibility for domestic students, we must also ensure that predictability is maintained for our international students, who had to bear the burden of unfair tuition hikes for many years.”

With students expecting the pressure of the new financial burden, they are also faced with the challenge of programs being eliminated such as the Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP), which created 12,000 positions over the last four years. The statement continues to tout the benefits the STEP program had on student finances, employability and skill development.

“We are disappointed to see the elimination of the Summer Temporary Employment Program. Its elimination will also have a huge impact on Alberta’s non-profit sector which relies on this funding to create new jobs. As a result, it is necessary to find alternatives to fill in the gap left by STEP, such as ways to connect students with employers, experiences and skill sets to contribute to Alberta’s economy upon graduation.”

The statement did note one positive outcome from the 2019/20 budget which was the increased funding for apprenticeship training across the province. The increased funding will allow for students to access retraining opportunities and re-enter the labour force.

“Post-secondary education represents a strong return on investment in creating new jobs and growing our economy, but in order to realize that return, our higher education system must be accessible, affordable and predictable. Unfortunately, this budget undermines the accessibility and affordability of the system while threatening the viability of quality instruction and critical support services at institutions across the province,” student leaders added in their statement.

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