TD Canada Trust has recently released a survey that found “more than half (55%) [of Albertan students] feel either anxious (38%) or stressed (17%) when they think about how they are going to pay their way through school.” In recent years, Budget cuts have forced universities to look for methods of getting around the Consumer Price Index tuition cap such as Mandatory Non-Instructional Fees, and Market Modifiers. Students can’t be certain whether or not the money they can save in the summer will be enough to pay for their education This forces many students to work during the school year to keep up with rising tuition and prices of academic materials.
Financial stress is also up because once again, summer unemployment is high for students, at 17.4%. If students are unemployed or underemployed when they are counting on earning money, they will have to rely on more loans, but the Alberta Student Loans Program expects contributions from summer earnings. According to the survey, 64% of Canadian students “expect to graduate with debt hanging over their heads with one quarter anticipating they will owe more than $25,000.”
Costs, unemployment and academics are all factors in postsecondary education participation, and Alberta already has one of the lowest PSE participation rates in the country. Short-term work in the natural resource industry is tempting in the face of PSE uncertainty. Alberta would be wise make PSE a priority so that the knowledge economy flourishes and students can be confident a degree will be worth their significant investment of time and money.
This goes on to prove that Alberta’s students need a predictable tuition and fees regulator such as CPI. How can we expect Albertans to plan on attending a postsecondary institution with unpredictable costs of academic materials and living, if even tuition is unknown? I hope that keeping the tuition cap remains a priority for the next government of Alberta.