Amendments to the new post-secondary bill are seen as progress by student leaders but some are concerned about the tuition cap.
Bill 43, the Post-Secondary Learning Act, was introduced at the end of the provincial government's spring session to generate feedback for the Learning Ministry. Groups such as universities, students' associations and other groups critiqued the bill. Of concern to the student groups was the 30 per cent tuition cap's move from legislation to regulation and the possibility of audits of students' association.
Bill amendments changed several aspects of the act. The tuition cap will remain in the legislation but details will be placed in regulation. As well, audits of students' associations will be responsible to the ministry.
Students' Union Vice-President External Lauren Batiuk spent the summer lobbying Calgary MLAs about Bill 43. She says it's good to see progress but is hesitant when it comes to the tuition cap.
"What is proposed is that the tuition cap of 30 per cent is still in existence, thus it is in legislation," said Batiuk. "Once an institution has reached the 30 per cent cap, then they can calculate tuition by using a CPI plus 2.5 per cent formula. This is most applicable to institutions such as University of Lethbridge who are at the cap and will now go to the CPI model. Doesn't sound like a cap, does it?"
According to Post-Secondary PR Representative for Alberta Education, Katrina Bluetchen, the cap is more of a "threshold" and institutions near the 30 per cent cap can ask for Learning Ministry permission to increase tuition past that.
"This will continue to maintain predictable and manageable increases for students," said Bluetchen.
Student leaders are not the only ones questioning the new amendment. New Democrat Leader Dr. Raj Pannu believes the cap does not exist anymore.
"The cap is not there," said Dr. Pannu. "The pretense is that the cap remains. The cap's gone if the ministry has the power by the amendment to override the cap."
Bill 43 is amalgamation of four existing post-secondary acts and will govern universities, colleges, technical institutes and the Banff Centre.