On Tuition Fees

As we prepare a petition to the Government of Alberta for funding for the University of Alberta as a public good, we ask others to consider the facts available to us from this chart available on the website for the Strategic Analysis Office of the University of Alberta:

As the chart shows, since the early 1990s, or the “Klein years,” students have been paying a significantly higher proportion of the costs towards their education than at most earlier periods in the University’s history.

The situation was best for students in the late 70s and early 80s, when the provincial government was presumably adhering to the goal that Canada had committed to when it signed the 1976 International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Article 13.2.c of which reads “Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education.”

Consistent with the covenant, the provincial government was supposed to be aiming to make post-secondary education in Alberta entirely free. It came closest to this in 1981, in which it paid $10 for every $1 that students put towards their education at the University of Alberta.

Things took a terrible down-turn in the 1980s, as the provincial government turned away from its international commitment, and worsened again in the 1990s.

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, as the provincial government began to increase its hard-dollars investment in the form of FTEs, the University began to increase tuition fees. The situation as it stands is that for every $10 that goes to provincial funding of a student’s education at the University of Alberta students must pay $4.

We ask that the provincial government and the University Administration remember Canada’s commitment to working progressively towards supplying free post-secondary education to all, and reverse the disturbing trend by which it has chosen to do the opposite, make post-secondary education more costly for students. With its choice, it risks making post-secondary education inaccessible to some Albertans, a situation that is unconscionable for one of the world’s richest democracies.

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