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Airdrie-Cochrane NDP candidate talks party's stance on post-secondary

Airdrie-Cochrane NDP candidate Shaun Fluker said his party's policies pertaining to post-secondary education are of personal interest.
Airdrie-Cochrane NDP candidate Shaun Fluker argues the party's policies on post-secondary education would help make everyday life more affordable for higher-education students.

Airdrie-Cochrane NDP candidate Shaun Fluker said his party's policies pertaining to post-secondary education are of personal interest. 

That's because the candidate's career background is in the post-secondary sector, as an associate professor of law at the University of Calgary.

The NDP recently announced that, if they were to form government, the party would address the rising cost of post-secondary education in Alberta by restoring the interest payable on student loans back to the prime rate, and also cap tuition rate increases. 

“It's my workplace, so I see on a daily basis what high tuition fees mean for students and what UCP cuts to post-secondary funding mean for the institutions,” said Fluker, who has been with the U of C's law faculty since 2007. “It’s hollowing out higher education in this province.”

Back when the NDP was the governing party in Alberta from 2015 to 2019, post-secondary tuition increases were capped to the rate of inflation, or the Canadian Consumer Price Index. That practice was removed shortly after the United Conservative Party resumed power in 2019, allowing Alberta's universities and colleges to up their tuition rates by above the rate of inflation. The Alberta government ultimately froze tuition increases at a maximum of seven per cent for three years, beginning in 2020.

To offset budget cuts in both 2020 and 2021, the University of Calgary's board of governors approved the maximum seven per cent tuition fee increases for most programs. 

With inflation reaching 30-year highs in 2022, Fluker argued even freezing tuition increases to be in line with inflation wouldn't be enough of a step to keep higher education affordable.

“In the era we’re in now, where inflation is seven, eight, nine, 10 per cent, I think we have to look at capping the rate of tuition increases to a rate that ensures accessing higher education remains affordable for Alberta students,” he said. “If we remain in an era where inflation is at the level it’s at, we have to look at it more from the perspective of, ‘How can we ensure post-secondary education remains accessible to Albertans?’”

Although the Airdrie-Cochrane riding does not house any university or college campuses (outside of satellite campuses for Bow Valley College in both Airdrie and Cochrane) Fluker argues post-secondary is a wide-encompassing topic. He added that while door-knocking in the riding, the main issue people want to talk about is overall affordability. He argues education falls within that realm.

“Rising tuition fees or rising costs associated with taking on debt to pursue higher education affects a wide range of Albertans and families, whether they’re pursuing a university degree, college degree, or seeking out a trade,” he said. “It’s something that affects every Albertan and I think it’s best to think of it with that in mind.”

Scott Strasser

About the Author: Scott Strasser

Scott Strasser, editor
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