Ben Lemphers/for metro edmonton


NDP Leader Brian Mason explains how he protested when tuition was raised to $600 when he was attending U of A. Mason spoke with students yesterday afternoon after announcing his party’s plan to freeze tuition.

« Students just want to be able to know that from month to month we have enough money to eat and pay our bills. »

University students would pay roughly $1,300 less in tuition under a New Democrat government, rolling back rates to 1999 levels, party leader Brian Mason pledged yesterday.

Making a campaign stop at the University of Alberta’s education building, Mason said his party would cap interest rates on student loans at prime while supporting a $100-million fund to build more campus housing.

"Everyone needs to have access to post-secondary education in this province on the basis of their ability and not on the size of their parents’ bank account," he told a small group of students gathered to hear him speak.

Mason said he’d also boost provincial investment in post-secondary institutions to offset the reduction in revenues the tuition roll back would generate.

Leanne Warrenchuk, 27, a student in the University of Calgary’s social worker program, said she actually took out a mortgage with the help of her parents because it was cheaper than finding a place to rent.

"Tuition is expensive, text books are expensive and accommodation is expensive," she said. "Students just want to be able to know that from month to month we have enough money to eat and pay our bills."

Courtney Mabbutt, 21, a student in the same program, said she’s had to cut costs by living in her boyfriend’s parents’ basement. Still, she’s run up roughly $10,000 in student debt and therefore welcomes any reductions in tuition levels.

The Liberals have pledged a $1,000 rollback on tuition and the creation of an endowment fund for education, supported by oil and gas royalties. The Tories are proposing to cap student loan interest rates at prime and to continue limiting tuition increases to the rate of inflation.

There are roughly 146,000 post-secondary students in the province.