Ed Stelmach’s cabinet quietly changed the rules around raising tuition in Alberta last Thursday through an order-in-council. You can read the new regulation and take a look at the news release that was put out on Thursday evening – but given the time of year and time of day, no one was expecting many news stories to be written about it.

The reason the Government changed the regulation is related to the announcement on April 7 that would raise tuition in six programs at the University of Calgary and University of Alberta starting next September. Those increases would have been illegal if the rules did not change as tuition increases in Alberta are limited to no more than CPI. CAUS fought hard last year to reject the calls to increase tuition and while it was disappointing to see increases in those six programs the majority of proposals were rejected and most students will see an increase next year of no more than 0.35%.

Unfortunately, the new regulation goes further than allowing these six programs to increase. The Minister of Advanced Education and Technology now has the power to circumvent the tuition cap at Alberta’s universities and colleges whenever he or she deems necessary and according to criteria of his or her choosing. Given that Alberta’s institutions already have tuition above the national average, it is not surprising that students are disappointed.

It is important to remember that in the 2008 election the Tories promised to keep the cap, saying they would “extend the commitment to limit tuition increases to the rate of inflation.”

CAUS is calling for the government to reverse the amendment and to put the cap on increasing tuition fees into legislation, so that changes to tuition policy have to be made in the Legislature, rather than behind closed doors. And that will involve working with the government to make new rules that will govern tuition increases but also making sure students and Albertans are aware that the rules of the game are changing.