Alberta’s New Post-Secondary Affordability Measures: What You Need to Know

In a February 16th media release titled Making Post-Secondary Education More Affordable, the Alberta government announced a series of affordability measures for post-secondary students.

As a part of the 2023 Budget, the government said they plan to aid the accessibility and affordability of post-secondary education by:

  • Capping tuition increases at 2% per academic year starting in 2024-25
  • Reducing interest rates on provincial student loans to match the prime rate (which sits at 6.7% at the time of writing)
  • Increasing the interest-free grace period on provincial student loans from 6 to 12 months
  • Increasing the threshold for the Repayment Assistance Plan from $25,000 to $40,000

These policy changes come alongside an increase in funding for the Alberta Student Grant, which over 10,000 low-income students in the province currently receive. The additional funding will be retroactively applied to the beginning of the 2022-23 academic year, meaning those who receive this grant can expect to receive a lump sum payment from Alberta Student Aid.

While these measures were welcomed by student leaders, they are a temporary halt to some already damaging funding decisions made by the current government over the last 4 years. Your REC team is concerned about future funding not being adequate or predictable and they want to see a long-term sustainable funding model that doesn’t rely so heavily on student contributions.

Your REC team advocates to all levels of government, in part through their memberships in federal and provincial advocacy groups such as the Council of Alberta University Students, or CAUS. You can view a statement by CAUS on these new measures here.

“We’ve been advocating to the government about affordability, having conversations with the minister and his office to talk about inflation, and advocating for all the things that have been announced today,” explains SAMRU Representation Executive Council (REC) President Joseph Nguyen in an article for the Calgary Herald.

CAUS and SAMRU’s REC have historically supported an inflation cap on tuition increases, understanding that students’ financial contributions are necessary for their institutions’ success within current base-funding models.

Under the previous government (2015-2019), REC advocated for a tuition cap equal to the average of the last three years of inflation. The government eventually implemented an inflation cap on tuition in 2019 shortly before an election. The new government then temporarily raised the cap to 7% a year from 2020 to 2023. Under the new measures announced on February 16th, the original inflation cap will return to 2% for the 2024-25 academic year onward.

It is worth noting that while these figures represent a cap put in place by the government, it is up to the individual Universities to decide how much – if at all – to raise tuition in a given academic year.

High levels of inflation also translate to a disproportionately high tuition cap. Lowering the cap will benefit students in the short term, but concerns about adequate funding for Alberta’s post-secondary system remain. Your REC team, alongside their counterparts across the province, will continue to advocate for increased government funding to institutions. 

“We are still actively advocating for the government to address ongoing issues related to post-secondary, which include but are not limited to: affordability, gender-based violence, digital infrastructure, Indigenous learners, campus mental health, and work-integrated learning,” explains President Nguyen.

“The work is not finished; we recognize the cuts previously made to post-secondary and feel the harmful ramifications of them; however, we will also celebrate any wins that support students and help them succeed.”

President Joseph Nguyen