Tories pledge loan break for students
The rising cost of a post-secondary education became the central focus of the provincial election yesterday, with the Tories promising cuts to interest rates on student loans while other parties want huge rollbacks on tuition rates.
In announcing his party’s post-secondary platform, Conservative Leader Ed Stelmach used the backdrop of Family Day to pledge a 2.5 per cent cut to student loan interest rates while continuing to limit annual tuition increases to the rate of inflation.
"Our plan addresses the challenges that students face and it helps them with the investment in their future — because their future is really Alberta’s future," he said. "No doubt about it."
Stelmach also pledged to improve the affordability of graduate programs, but his party’s tuition platform appears modest when compared to the campaign promises the Alberta Liberals are making.
Liberal Leader Kevin Taft has pledged that his party would slash annual tuition rates by an average of $1,000 while introducing grants to cover the rising costs of textbooks.
Stelmach said he wasn’t sure how the Liberals could afford such measures, but he explained the Tories are offering election promises that are "realistic and achievable."
The New Democrats haven’t officially released their post-secondary policy, but their campaign website states they would reduce tuition fees to 1999 levels and fund a continuous tuition freeze afterwards.
At one point, Alberta did have a two-year freeze on tuition increases, but that ended in 2007 with the rate becoming linked to inflation.
In January, the University of Alberta raised its tuition rates by 4.6 per cent, the maximum allowed under current government policy.
Student leaders have waged a provincewide advocacy campaign called "Imagine Alberta," featuring television and radio advertising that asks parents to make post-secondary issues a major part of the provincial election.
The $140,000 campaign is funded in part by fees collected by Alberta student and faculty associations. Representatives could not be reached for comment yesterday.
- Current tuition rates for the province’s 146,000 post-secondary students are roughly $400 higher than the national average of $4,524, according to a recent report by Statistics Canada.