Government looking at student aid, as well as tuition hikes, premier says

Both costs and the availability of student aid will be looked at before any change is made to remove or raise the cap on tuition hikes at Alberta post-secondary schools, Premier Jim Prentice says.

In an interview with reporters from the SAIT Journalism and Radio-Television-Broadcast News programs, the premier stressed that no decision has been made to change, or eliminate, the cap, which currently limits tuition increases to 2.2 per cent per year.

Alberta Advanced Education Minister Don Scott will be consulting with students and the boards of colleges and universities before any change in the tuition policy is made, Prentice promised.

“In the meantime we are not making any changes,” he said.

The premier was at SAIT Feb. 27 to appear on a radio open-line show and meet with student news media. Earlier that day, Prentice met with the board of governors of the U of C.

In his interview with The Press and RTBN, Prentice said his government believes post-secondary education should be affordable and accessible to everyone.

“Part of that involves proper balancing of student aid and tuition,” he said.

If the tuition cap is removed, Prentice does not see a gap forming between students who have money and those who are less well off, as has been the case in the U.S.

“We’ve had a much more accessible system in Canada than that,” he said.

On the topic of the province’s situation as a whole, Prentice adds that the economic crisis that Alberta is facing is “not a blip and it’s going to continue on for some time.

“We’re facing the most significant financial circumstances we’ve seen in Alberta in a generation,” he said.

Any changes that are ever made have to be done in a measured way that gives people time to adjust. – Premier Jim Prentice

“Any changes that are ever made have to be done in a measured way that gives people time to adjust.”

Prentice said that he and his ministers have been working on a 10-year financial plan to help get Alberta back on track, and that they are consulting with Albertans on the project.

“[Albertans] need, ultimately, to be supportive of what the premier is doing,” he said, dropping another hint that a provincial election is in the offing.

The upcoming provincial budget will be so radical and far-reaching, Albertans will demand a say on it, Prentice said on News Talk 770 radio.

“This will be the most significant budget in modern times in the province,” he said.

With the province facing a multi-billion-dollar revenue shortfall as a result of falling oil prices, “whoever is the premier had better have a mandate. He better have the authority to do what needs to be done.”

The budget, which is expected to be introduced in the legislature near the end of March, will be controversial, Prentice predicted.

“I promise you it will take about 20 minutes after this budget is put on the table before people say, ‘Well, just a minute here. Did we agree to that? When did we agree to that?’

“These are challenging times and all Albertans need to be part of the solutions.”

About Caleb Ross 6 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Caleb Ross is working as a reporter for The Press during the 2014-2015 academic year.