Hey SAIT students! Let’s talk about tuition!
Tuition will always be an important topic of discussion for students. Recently, the Alberta Government tabled Bill 19 to create some changes to the Post-Secondary Learning Act (PSLA) that will affect tuition and how it is calculated in Alberta.
In order to explain the effects of Bill 19, I need to give you some background information on the events in recent years that have affected tuition in Alberta.
From 2006 to 2016, tuition was calculated through a Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase which could be no less than 0% and no more than 5%.
In 2015 the Government of Alberta announced a two-year tuition freeze for domestic students and apprentices while they conducted a tuition review. Institutions were also expected to freeze mandatory non-instructional fees (MNIF) and apprenticeship material fees. While frozen tuition and MNIF’s may sound like a good thing, remember that it’s a short-term solution that can potentially create long term problems for both students and institutions. The Alberta Government provided $16 million in funding to post-secondary institutions across Alberta to make up for the gap in their budgets but the backfill funding was not provided when the freeze was extended for another year.
Post-secondary institutions rely on predictable income to ensure their campus is running smoothly and efficiently. When tuition was mandated to stay the same, SAIT and other institutions faced the issue of trying to compete with costs that are increasing through CPI and a loss of funding from tuition.
In the fall of 2016, international students saw a drastic increase in tuition rates, without warning, across the province as institutions tried to mitigate the loss of the increases in domestic tuition. These students were often informed their tuition had doubled or tripled as they went to pay it.
Since the announcement of the freeze, Alberta’s student leaders have been lobbying the government to provide a long-term, predictable and sustainable tuition model. This was to attempt to mitigate the potentially detrimental increases in domestic tuition once the freeze was lifted. (To explain it simply, every semester your tuition potentially could have been raised by $100, a small increase that you most likely would not have noticed. However, with the schools unable to increase tuition by the small amount, five years later you may be paying $1000 more in tuition unexpectedly.)
On Monday October 29, your Vice-President External, Garrett Koehler, and I were invited alongside other student leaders to attend an announcement at the Alberta Legislature. The Minister of Advanced Education, Marlin Schmidt, tabled Bill 19: An Act to Improve the Affordability and Accessibility of Post-Secondary Education.
Bill 19 proposed multiples changes to the Post-Secondary Learning Act. Below, I’ve highlighted the four that will impact SAIT students the most.
CHANGE #1: Cap each institution’s average tuition and apprenticeship fee increases to the Consumer Price Index.
What that means for SAIT students: This means that tuition increases will be predictable and sustainable, meaning that it will be easier for students to budget for their time at post-secondary.
CHANGE #2: Provide increased predictability for international students.
What that means for SAIT students: International students will know the full cost of their degrees up front, so there are no financial surprises during their time of study. International tuition will still be raised alongside domestic tuition related to CPI and inflation.
CHANGE #3: Allow the minister to regulate mandatory non-instructional fees and international student tuition.
What that means for SAIT students: By giving the minister the ability to regulate these fees, it could potentially speed up any changes that happen to MNIF’s and international tuition. This could be a positive or a negative thing depending on how things play out. We will be keeping our eyes and ears open to see what comes of this.
CHANGE #4: Empower students to have more say over exceptional tuition and fee increases.
What that means for SAIT students: This means that the student representatives that you elect annually, will have a stronger voice when it comes to the amount that you pay for post-secondary education. The Bill will ensure that student leaders are involved in the proposal processes that go to the government when it comes to MNIF’s and any changes that students don’t agree with will not move forward.
Overall, if Bill 19 is passed, these changes will take effective for the 2020/2021 academic year. The government has extended the tuition freeze until the changes take effect. For domestic SAIT students this is not an issue, however it does leave our international students at risk until 2020 as the institution still has the opportunity to raise international tuition before the changes come into effect. This is definitely something that is on our radar and we hope to work with the institution to ensure our current international students are protected during the transition period.
In short, the presentation with the proposed changes of Bill 19 is a huge win for students in Alberta and a huge step forward!