Important post-secondary funding for students in Budget 2017

Students can expect to see continued efforts by the Government of Alberta to provide sustainable and predictable funding for their post-secondary education, according to the newly-released Budget 2017. The types of decisions made by the provincial government decisions about funding can have real effects on your post-secondary experience – and that means if you’re a university student, it’s important to understand what’s in Budget 2017.

Luckily, we’ve got Shifrah Gadamsetti, President, and Dexter Bruneau, Vice-President External, here to explain just what Budget 2017 means for students, and what kind of changes you might see as a result.

 

Tuition

The facts:

  • The tuition freeze, originally implemented in September 2015, will continue till September 2018.
  • Increase in government tuition revenue is due to the increase in enrollment and increase in international student tuition

What’s that mean?

“We’re pleased to see the freeze continue while we wait to see the current Tuition and Fees review completed. We advocate for a stable, predictable, tuition model that only increases by CPI every year so students know exactly what tuition costs for the entirety of their degree.”

 

Institutional funding

The facts:

  • No backfill funding with a 2% increase
  • Increase to approximately $5.59 billion from $5.48 billion – an increase of $114 million (for all institutions across Alberta).

What’s that mean?

“We care about this because the provincial government is responsible for funding post-secondary education to a certain percentage every year. Unfortunately, this number has often been arbitrary in the past, and we’re hoping to see a better formula come out of the review so all students are funded equitably across the province. The base operating grant was renewed, but we have still to see backfill funding to help recoup the costs from the large cuts in previous years.  We’re keeping our eyes and ears open for a better funding model soon!”

 

Mental Health Funding

The facts:

  • $3.6 million for mental health support for post-secondary students.
  • More details about breakdown and institutional allocation of this funding to be given by the Ministry once the provincial Mental Health Panel has completed their meetings and provided recommendations.

What’s that mean?

“Is this good? Kinda. We’re glad to see the funding for mental health services renewed, but since they were renewed at exactly the same $$ amount without much explanation of how it’s going to be divided, it may compromise services on at least two Alberta University campuses moving forward. We continue to advocate for not only funding these services, but keeping them right here, on campus over integration of other community services.”

 

Student Aid

The facts:

Scholarships

  • $96 million to scholarships and awards with an increase of $4.4 million for the Alexander Rutherford Scholarship

Grants

  • $56 million for grants with an increase of $4.2 million for the Alberta Low Income Grant.
  • Increase of about $12 million overall to Student Aid.

Student Loans

  • Increase of $51 million to $630 million overall (~10% increase)

What’s that mean?

When it comes to scholarships, “this means so many high school students are going to have access to scholarship funds than before, easing the burden of financial and academic burden.” As for grants, Budget 2017 “increases access to 16,400 students that we weren’t helping before,” and also provides “more money in non-repayable funding, which means no interest, and less debt!”

 

Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP)

The facts:

  • Continuation of program for the upcoming year
  • Allocation of $10 million for the program

What’s that mean?

“Whooop! We’re encouraged to see the program continued and funded, because good jobs and valuable work experience and employment is important to students. Businesses can hire you with a portion of the wage paid for by this program, allowing them to hire more students and to pay them well! What we’d like to see moving forward is having the program expanded year round, because we know you play hard and work harder all year round, not just through the summer months. We’re also looking to see data released, to show us who exactly is hiring students, if they are finding it to be a valuable experience, and what we can improve upon!”

 

If you’re looking for more information about Budget 2017, and how that might affect you, you can download the press release from Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) here, or visit CAUS’ website for more information.

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