On Friday, March 24, students will protest 2023-24 tuition hikes, including a 5.5% increase for domestic students and 6.5% increase for international students. AASUA stands with students as they protest these increases; our world-class university needs to be supported by the public, not held up on the backs of future generations pursuing an education. AASUA leadership will be attending the protest, and we encourage members wanting to show solidarity with students to attend if they are able to (details about the protest time and location here).
With the government slashing funding for universities over the past few years — including over $222 million in funding cut from the University of Alberta alone — students have increasingly been forced to make up the difference. The government’s 2019 decision to remove the tuition freeze has led the cost for some U of A programs to increase anywhere from 29-74% over the past four years. These increases have arrived amid an affordability crisis, with many students struggling to continue in their programs due to unsustainable costs. The government should be protecting students during this difficult time — instead, it has not only failed to provide adequate supports but exacerbated students’ suffering.
As students have been forced to pay more, the university as we know it has been radically reshaped by austerity. Academic staff have seen our workloads grow exponentially in the wake of restructuring and job loss, with many of our members facing increasingly precarious employment as a result of chronic underfunding. The conditions instructors require to create an exceptional learning experience for students have increasingly been cut away, transforming our daily work, and putting our university in danger.
The good news is there is a way forward to protect the U of A: demand the government adequately fund post-secondary education in Alberta. Academic staff and students are united in a common struggle — to restore funding to the university, and in turn alleviate the inequitable burden on students, as well as the challenges confronting educators and researchers.
Budget 2023 has shown the government has no problem with continuing its attack on post-secondary, but the fight is not over. Headed into an election, we can speak up for advanced education’s indispensability to our province, our economy, and our society. Together, we can show the government that we are not willing to sacrifice workers, students, or the future of our university at the hands of austerity. There is simply too much at stake.