The Saskatchewan NDP are promising a tuition freeze for in-province students at SIAST and the two universities if elected on Nov. 7.
They’re being praised for the promise by the University of Regina Students Union. “There are a lot of up front financial costs that students face other than tuition, so if we can grab one of those costs and sort of manage it and freeze it then students will be able to allocate their funds and better prepare for the upcoming years of study,” VP-External Paige Kezima told the Leader-Post.
But the tuition freeze is just one part of an extensive—some say, expensive—post-secondary plan announced Monday by NDP leader Dwain Lingenfelter. The party also pledged that they would expand student aid in the province, including raising the family income ceiling for eligibility for student aid and a commitment to 100 extra bursaries for graduate students. In addition, the NDP say they will build 1,000 new student housing spaces and fund 10,000 additional seats at universities and colleges. That last pledge has an estimated cost of $88-million over four years, according to the NDP. They estimate the tuition freeze would cost $26-million by year four.
The party’s main opponent, the incumbent Saskatchewan Party, announced two new education-related initiatives last week, including $500 annual bursaries for university students and to match up to $250 annually for parents who contribute to their children’s Registered Education Savings Plans.
Responding to the tuition freeze idea, Sask. Party leader and Premier Brad Wall told the Leader-Post that freezes are bad policy, in part because governments may fail to live up to their pledges to increase funding to make up for the shortfalls, and in part because of “huge increases” in tuition when freezes end. University of Saskatchewan President Peter MacKinnon is also opposed.
Average undergraduate tuition fees in Sask. grew from $1,545 in 1990-91 to $5,063 in 2006-07, according to CBC News. They reached $5,601 this fall, according to Statistics Canada, which makes Sask. the fifth most expensive province. The average in Canada this fall was $5,366.