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University students, staff protest UCP cuts at Alberta Legislature

Last Updated Nov 19, 2019 at 9:23 am MDT

EDMONTON – Students and staff from two major Alberta universities gathered at the legislature building in Edmonton to protest post-secondary cuts in the UCP’s budget.

The Students’ Association of MacEwan University says the combination of the end of a tuition freeze and changes to grants and student loans hurts students.

“There’s a potential for tuition to increase by 21 per cent. A tax credit is gone for tuition, and there’s going to be an increase in the student loan repayment method,” said Ryley Osadchuk, President of Students Association of MacEwan University.

“We want affordability. We want quality education. We want accessibility of jobs.”

Osadchuk says students have told the association that they will have to make major changes in their own budget to make ends meet–some even saying that they can’t afford school anymore and will be forced to drop out of their programs.

“What we’re really looking for is predictability and affordability,” said Osadchuk.

“We really want to make sure our institutions are listening to us and ensuring that we aren’t going to be increasing the tuition by that 21 per cent.”

Osadchuk added administrative costs will be reviewed at MacEwan as a result of the provincial cuts.

READ MORE: Alberta budget promises balance amid some cuts over the next four years

“I stand in support of the students,” said Pam Young, Educational Developer, Teaching and Learning Services at MacEwan. “Their costs are going to be going up. And post-secondary education could be a lot less accessible to many students.”

Not being able to afford school is something that student Gina Bennett faces.

“I am going to have to sit down and re-evaluate my finances and figure out if I can continue my schooling, despite only having two years left,” said Bennett, a¬†communications student.

“I had a future career prospect… of going to teach English for a couple of years in Japan. That was the whole reason for me coming back to school. With the budget cuts coming up I may no longer be able to do that.”

In the long-term, Bennett had planned to return to school after teaching in Japan to pursue a master’s degree and PhD.

Young says with a $17-million drop in funding from the government, there are going to be losses.

“Job losses, program losses–we don’t know right now. But certainly, it’s going to be tough.”

She added there’s a lot of uncertainty at the moment, but she’s most concerned for jobs at the university and the students’ future.

“Post-secondary education is so important to our province. And the cuts mean that it’s going to be a lot more difficult to access it.”

Faculty and students from the University of Alberta also joined their MacEwan counterparts at the steps of the legislature, chanting “no education cuts”.

In the October budget, the government slashed post-secondary grants by as much as eight per cent and it also eliminated a freeze on tuition increases.

The University of Calgary Students’ Union¬†held a town hall Monday where it was announced The university would be eliminating 250 jobs as a result of a $33-million cut for the university in the provincial budget.

-with files from Carly Robinson, CityNews