Wildrose Alliance Party leader Danielle Smith presented her party's outline for post-secondary education in Alberta during a noon presentation at MacEwan Student Centre on Oct. 4.
During a speech to students in attendance over the lunch hour, Smith prioritized a loan forgiveness program for students of high-demand professions remaining in the province.
She also committed to tying tuition increases to inflation and eliminating parental income in loan calculations.
"We would crack down on post-secondary institutions that are charging excessive non-instructional fees," Smith said, alluding to the hundreds of dollars in non-academic fees added to the cost of tuition by the University of Alberta and Calgary this year.
"Alberta's institutions charge the highest non-instructional fees of any province last year, an average of $818 per student," said Smith. "These big and unfair levies are essentially an additional tax for students who are barely able to handle tuition fees as is."
Smith said she feels the current government broke its own promise of linking tuition to inflation when it allowed universities to propose market-modified tuition increases for professional programs.
"I think the fact that we have a policy on the books that says you can count on your tuition being only three or four or five per cent higher than last year is something that students rely on when they get into the system," Smith said.
Council of Alberta University Students executive-chair Hardave Birk said his group supports many of the ideas the Wildrose came forward with.
"We're very big on the CPI cap and we definitely want to see some sort of regulation around fees put forward," said Birk, Students' Union vice-president external.
Smith also proposed a funding model that would see institutions receive money from the government based on the number of individual students that chose to enroll there, something Birk argued wouldn't be best for the system.
"Things like funding following students rather than the individual institutions as it does currently is moving a little too much towards privatization," Birk said. "It creates more competition between institutions and that can have some negative effects."
"At the end of the day CAUS is happy to see the Wildrose Alliance putting out policy," Birk said. "I think it's going to be a major issue in the next election."