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Alberta students, NDP calling for changes to 2021 budget

Last Updated Mar 4, 2021 at 7:46 am MDT

Students walk along a pathway at the University of Calgary (PHOTO: CityNews)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — Post-secondary schools are critical to the future of Alberta’s economy.

That’s why Education Critic David Eggen and NDP Leader Rachel Notley say they are joining students in opposing the 2021 provincial budget.

Alberta’s NDP says the budget plans for $135 million in cuts to post-secondary.

“Since taking office, when population and inflation are factored in, the UCP has cut $690 million, or nearly 23 per cent. As well, in the proposed budget alone, the UCP will tack on $106 million in increased tuition fees charged to students for a total tuition increase of $387 million since taking office.”

READ MORE: Post-secondary faculty and students team up to fight cuts

Third-year University of Calgary ancient medieval history student Noa Spivak is heartbroken and worried about her friends after the announcement.

“They’re scared because there are less jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they’re not sure if they are going to be able to find a job once they graduate. Right now as students we’re graduating with more student debt, entering a bleak job market,” Spivak said. “The burden the youth of Alberta must bear under the policies of the UCP will be significant.”

In addition, she says operational costs for post-secondary institutions went up by 6 per cent from 2018 to 2019 which is concerning.

“The UCP seems to have an expectation that the university will find that money somehow, either on the backs of students or at the loss of services. With the rising tuition and the expected loss of services, the UCP are sending students a very clear message: they want you to pay more for less.”

READ MORE: University of Calgary facing tough decisions following provincial budget

Chaise Coombs is in his third year as well and says this budget will negatively impact students who are already struggling.

He explains, prior to the pandemic, around 40 per cent of students were dealing with food insecurity on campus. Now many have lost employment due to COVID-19 and things are dire.

“Post-secondary represents the chance to escape poverty. But it needs to be affordable and accessible.”

Coombs also believes students deserve to have a say in the fees they’re being charged and is calling on students, staff, and faculty to organize and take action to oppose the budget.

“All in all we are limiting the capacity of the young minds who would otherwise put forward the ideas and the innovation that would secure tomorrow’s economy here in Calgary and throughout Alberta,” said Notley, adding they have four calls for action: “reverse the $690 million in cuts to the post-secondary budget, freeze student tuition rates for at least the duration of the pandemic, stop increases to student loan interest rates, end the move to performance-based funding for schools.”

660 NEWS reached out to the provincial government to respond to the matter, in which it replied:

“This year’s funding, along with the introduction of performance-based funding and the Alberta 2030: Building Skills for Jobs initiative, represent a commitment to delivering the best value possible for post-secondary students in Alberta, while still bringing funding in line with comparable institutions.

“Given Alberta’s fiscal realities, taxpayers can no longer afford to pay for such a disproportionate amount of post-secondary costs compared to other similar provinces. However, we remain committed to ensuring that higher education remains accessible and prepares our students with the skills they will need in the short-, medium-, and long-term.

“It is also worth noting that tuition costs in Alberta remain lower than the national average and that the province continues to maintain limits on increases to preserve affordability for Alberta students.”