Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach’s first provincial budget, unveiled April 19, provides massive cash infusions for public infrastructure spending, but offers only minor support to improve the affordability of post-secondary education and no new money for university research.
While the budget transfers $117 million more to post-secondary operational funding, $22 million of this grant is part of an agreement with institutions to limit tuition fee increases to the cost of inflation, which sits around 5 per cent. However, with the end of the province’s novel two-year centennial tuition rebate that allowed institutions to implement variable tuition fee increases with the government covering the increases, students will actually be seeing a sharp hike in fees for the 2007–2008 academic year.
The budget also allocates significant expenditures for the province’s Registered Education Savings Plan, with funding for the program — which largely benefits middle and upper income families — increasing by $20 million.
Other student measures include a $25 million increase in financial assistance to expand loan limits, and a 26 per cent hike in the education tax credit, from $475 to $600 per month for full-time students, and from $143 to $180 per month for part-time students.