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Former Alberta premier Jason Kenney shakes hands with Demetrios Nicolaides, minister of advanced education in April, 2019.JASON FRANSON

The Alberta government has announced a 2-per-cent cap on post-secondary tuition increases starting in fiscal year 2024-2025 to help students with the increased cost of living.

The tuition increase cap was one of several proposals announced Thursday to help students as a part of the United Conservative Party government’s upcoming budget.

Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said the cap on tuition across post-secondary institutions “will reduce the impact of inflationary pressures for Alberta students.” Currently, tuition fees are adjusted to the consumer price index.

The cap is expected to provide “predictability when it comes to tuition policy,” said Mr. Nicolaides – similar to tuition caps in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

Starting in July, the government said it would lower interest rates on student loans to the prime rate set by banks, a change that would benefit about 164,000 Alberta student loan borrowers.

“The change, of course, is necessary and will help address inflationary pressures by reducing costs of borrowing and alleviating repayment risks,” he said.

The grace period for interest-free loans would increase to 12 months from the existing six-month period, allowing students more time to find jobs. Students who graduated on or after December 2022 would be able to benefit from this measure.

Mr. Nicolaides also announced additional funding for the Alberta student grant of $225 per month for eligible students and increased thresholds for the repayment assistance plan to $40,000.

Affordability and Utilities Minister Matt Jones said the measures would provide both “immediate and ongoing relief to students.”

“These affordability measures will support [students] so they can focus on their studies and what matters most to them,” he said.

Matthew Yanish, vice-chair of the Council of Alberta University Students, said at least 30 per cent of students at the University of Alberta “are regularly skipping meals due to the cost of food.” He welcomed the government announcement.

“Nobody should be skipping meals or relying on food banks to survive, just as nobody in Alberta should be denied access to education,” he said.

Opposition NDP advanced education critic David Eggen criticized the measures.

He said the government lifted the tuition cap in 2020, “leading to massive tuition increase across the province and forcing students further into debt.”

Mr. Eggen said Mr. Nicolaides has previously argued against a tuition increase cap, noting the upcoming provincial election expected at the end of May.

“Reversing himself immediately before an election is obviously dishonest and shows Albertans that the UCP simply can’t be trusted.”

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