Bill 19 - Why all the hype?

Bill 19, “An Act to Improve the Affordability and Accessibility of Post-Secondary Education”, is a pretty big deal for students across Alberta.

You may find yourself wondering why, exactly… and we’re more than happy to fill you in!

The Post-Secondary Learning Act (PSLA)  has been, and continues to be, the most important piece of legislation affecting students who study in Alberta. Bill 19 brings forward important changes, or amendments, to the PSLA, that work to make access to post-secondary education more predictable and affordable.

In 2006, the tuition cap was removed from legislation, and since then, students have experienced arbitrary and unwarranted increases to their tuition and fees. In addition, a loophole that allowed for differential tuition, or market modifiers, allowed institutions to propose increases to specific programs without meaningfully consulting the students it directly affected.

Over the past two decades, students enrolled in post-secondary education have seen unpredictable increases in their academic and non-academic fees, with little opportunity to do anything about it. Data has shown us that financial barriers continue to be the most pressing concern and largest barrier for students who are seeking to start or complete their education, and without legislation, these concerns became increasingly stressful.

In 2015, the Government of Alberta announced a tuition freeze, which was then renewed for three consecutive academic years, and a recent announcement for yet another extension, lasting through 2019-2020. During the freeze, students were promised a comprehensive tuition review that would work to address issues of accessibility and affordability.

While this seems like a positive move, we know that tuition freezes are nothing more than a band-aid solution if a long-term solution isn’t found. For example, when provinces like Saskatchewan and British Columbia lifted their tuition freezes, students were met with substantial increases to their tuition, some as high as 30%.

CAUS has continually advocated for a long-term, stable, predictable tuition policy that allows students, institutions, government, and other stakeholders with information on what the costs of post-secondary education entail.

Bill 19 brings forward important changes to legislation, implementing financial protections for both domestic and international students. It also ensures that students have a more meaningful role in the decision-making process, with increased representation on the Board of Governors, and requirements for student approval whenever exceptional increases to tuition or non-instructional fees are proposed.

In summary, we can now look forward to the following:

  • An extension of the current tuition freeze, including market modifiers and mandatory non-instructional fees, until Bill 19 is implemented in the 2020-2021 academic year

  • Moving the cap for tuition increases at the Consumer Price Index into legislation

  • Guaranteeing international students an up-front evaluation of the entire cost of their program upon offer of admission, allowing them protections from year-to-year increases

  • Repealing the loopholes from the PSLA that allowed for Market Modifiers, also known as differential tuition

  • Requiring student approval prior to any proposals regarding exceptional tuition or mandatory non-instructional fee increases, including proof that these increases are directly related to the improving the quality of education

  • Requiring greater transparency for non-instructional fees, including proof that they meet cost recovery of services offered

  • Increased, and more equitable, student representation at the Board of Governors, namely for Mount Royal University and MacEwan University

This is only just the beginning - knowing that there’s much more work to be done, we remain encouraged by these steps and believe it builds a strong foundation towards a more accessible, affordable, and quality experience for students across Alberta.

This is proof that student advocacy works, and we can’t wait to keep building on this momentum!

For more information, please contact:

Andrew Bieman


#1 9908 109th Street

Edmonton, AB T5K 1H5 780.566.1168

Home office

#1 9908 109th Street

Edmonton, AB T5K 1H5 780.297.4531