Yesterday’s provincial budget made it clear that students were going to be the ones footing the bill for cuts in post-secondary education through increased student debt. Coming down at the same time as universities ponder dramatic tuition increases and new mandatory fees students, the cuts to scholarships, bursaries and grants will be felt hard on campus.

“A cut to bursaries and grants is a slap in the face – thousands of students are facing the prospect of few summer jobs and now are given little more than additional debt by the province,” said Beverly Eastham, chair of the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) and VP External at the University of Alberta Students’ Union. “We are especially disappointed in cutting the Student Loan Relief Benefit, the most important tool we have to limit student debt in this province. That is going to send those debt levels through the roof – expect to see graduates with as much as $50,000 or more in debt.”

The 2010 provincial budget made several unexpected cuts to Alberta’s student financial aid system, including:

  • Eliminating the $34.5 million Student Loan Relief Benefit, which limited the amount of debt a student could graduate with in Alberta
  • Cutting grants and bursaries to $13.5 million, a cut of 55% from last year
  • Reducing scholarships by $2.9 million from last year

    In order to compensate for these changes, the government is increasing student loan disbursements by $37.6 million through increasing loan limits, living allowances and other policy changes, although much of that may flow directly to institutions in the form of tuition increases and new fees.

    “Students have been hit hard by this economic downturn and can ill afford to see their supports crumbling away. This is a budget that hurts students,” concluded Eastham.