By Trevor Busch
While inflation makes life less affordable for all Albertans, post-secondary students with low income are especially hard pressed.
With that in mind, the provincial government is providing post-secondary students with new, targeted affordability supports. One key measure to be included as part of Budget 2023 will cap domestic tuition increases at two per cent across an institution in 2024-25 and for future academic years.
“This is more about an affordability measure,” said Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter. “We – the minister and caucus has spoken with our students – realized that something needs to be done there, we recognize that the measures that we’ve rolled out in terms of affordability measures need to be a little bit more for our students.”
Advanced Education is also doubling the student loan interest-free grace period from six months to 12 months to give students more time to find gainful employment without having to worry about student loan payments. Another measure will be increasing the thresholds for the Repayment Assistance Plan to $40,000 from $25,000 so more students can benefit from the program.
“They’ve also increased the grace period for loans from six months to 12 months,” said Hunter. “And they’ve increased the eligibility for the Repayment Assistance Plan as well. So in other words, we’re trying to take a look at this – affordability is a big issue, inflation is a big issue, cost of goods is higher. These high school students coming out of school, we don’t want them to to not be able to launch. And so this is kind of just a bit more that we felt we could do.”
Hunter argues many of the province’s affordability measures would not have been possible without previous fiscal prudence on the part of the provincial government.
“But the reason why we can do this, is because we were very careful over the last three and a half years. We were very careful, we watched our P’s and Q’s, it was not an easy thing to be able to tighten the belt. So we did. And then the price of the oil started to go up, we’re able to get a little bit more in royalties. But all of the stuff that we’ve done over the last three years has allowed us to be able to provide really some of the best affordability measures in Canada to our citizens. And that’s because of the work that we’ve done over the last three and a half years.”
Other measures being implemented by the province includes reducing interest rates on student loans to the prime rate, which will help reduce the cost of borrowing for both current and future Alberta student loan borrowers, as well as providing additional funding to increase the Alberta Student Grant by $225 per month for each eligible student during the 2022-23 loan year.