On Monday, November 18, the Students Not Silent March took place. Students walked to the legislation in protest of the hurdles the government has placed on students with the recent budget release. Ever since the provincial government released the new budget for post-secondary institutions, it has received heavy criticism.

The new provincial government has lifted the tuition freeze, initially introduced by the NDP government, which will come in effect in 2020. The tuition freeze prevented the increase in tuition. However, with the lift, there is fear that university tuition will become too heavy of a burden for many individuals, forcing a substantial number to regrettably drop out of their studies. Besides, post-secondary institutions in Alberta will now face significant cuts: $79 million in this year alone. Tuition may increase at the allowed maximum for many programs to account for the cuts. Any projects that depended on these grants will be stopped, which accounts for $39 million; the rest will be accounted for by a one-time 4.7% cut to faculties.

It should be noted that although these cuts are a one-time event for the year; these cuts may still occur in the following years. Tuition costs will now be allowed to increase at a maximum of 7% for three consecutive years, meaning that at the end of the tuition freeze lift, tuition may increase by a maximum of 21%. However, some individual programs may be subject to a 10% increase instead of the 7%, for a total of a 30% overall increase.

Not only will tuition increase, but post-secondary tax credits will be eliminated in their entirety.  According to the University of Alberta, it will take advantage of the flexibility in tuition increase, stating that while the increase in fees will allow for cushioning in the Campus Alberta grant cuts, the university will not lay all the burden on students. Nonetheless, the increased tuition as well as cuts means that students will pay the greatest price; students will enter next fall with a net increase in $9,000 for their degree. International students will face an increase in their tuition as well, although the specifics have yet to become apparent.

Augustana campus will have specific, and different, changes to tuition compared to North Campus. The proposed increase for the Augustana 2019-2020 year includes 3% for residence and 3% for the meal plan, compared to 5% and 2.27% for North Campus, respectively. For international students, the proposed increase in tuition is 2.77%. It must be accounted for that these proposed increases came before the new provincial post-secondary budget was released, and therefore, are subject to change, with the high possibility of even a more significant increase.

In terms of the university’s research, the research field may be vulnerable and suffer from the elimination of the Infrastructure Management Program, which was vital to ensuring that equipment and laboratories ran smoothly and up to date.

Overall, this new budget will be detrimental in many ways for the university and its students. However, hope should not be lost as students and other individuals alike continue to fight the budget and its effects; and in a time of such disparity that many of us will enter in the following years, it is essential we all work as one.

(Originally published December 11, 2019)

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