Parties put post-secondary in crosshairs

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While the NDP pledges to ease student wallets, the Sask Party promises to take the burden off of families

John Cameron
Editor-in-Chief
Online exclusive

With the announcement of the NDP’s post-secondary platform, student voters now have a stronger idea of the commitments both of Saskatchewan’s major parties are making to post-secondary education.

Both parties are looking to increase spending through various programs. The big difference is where they’re looking to spend. 

The cornerstone of the NDP’s platform, announced the morning of Monday, Oct. 17, at the University of Regina, is a proposed tuition freeze that the NDP claim will cost a total of $61.2 over the course of four years – a number lower than the $66 million the Sask Party has spent keeping tuition rates “reasonable”, according to the Sask Party’s own figures. The freeze would affect the U of R and the University of Saskatchewan as well as the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST).

“We don’t want financial issues to be one of the impediments to students completing their post-secondary education,” NDP leader Dwain Lingenfelter told the Carillon.

Tuition freeze included, the NDP’s post-secondary education platform alone will cost taxpayers $313 million across four years if implemented. That doesn’t include the costs of other NDP initiatives, including those affecting the cost of housing in the province. It does, however, include bursaries for grad students totaling $14 million by 2015 and  $12 million in annual “relocation subsidies” meant to complement income tax moving expense deductions.

But Lingenfelter is playing down the total cost of the NDP’s post-secondary platform. Saskatchewan’s budget this year was just under $11 billion, and the government expects it to grow by approximately four per cent annually over the next few years. With the continued growth of the province and a proposed review of potash royalties, Lingenfelter says, the costs of their platform fit comfortably within the budget without requiring the government to raise taxes “on families,” at the very least.

If this plan has the Sask Party worried, they aren’t showing it.

“I think it’s indicative of some desperate politics from a desperate party,” Rob Norris, minister for advanced education, told the Carillon.

As for his party’s platform, Norris says the party has tried to strike a balance between making education more affordable while sustaining the party’s track record, which has included trying to rein in tuition increases. Since the Sask Party let the province’s tuition freeze expire in 2009, average tuition in the province has gone up by roughly three per cent annually.

In terms of new policy, the Sask Party is pushing hard on two particular initiatives. The first is a $2000 “scholarship” for all graduating Grade 12 students in Saskatchewan who plan to attend post-secondary institutions in the province. The second is a commitment to match Saskatchewan families’ Registered Education Savings Plans contributions by 10 per cent per year up to $250 annually. 

Platforms for the other parties in Saskatchewan have been available for several weeks now. The third party running candidates in every riding, the Green Party, have promised to end what party leader Victor Lau has called the “debt slavery of university graduates” by using the province’s projected revenue increases over the next several years to eliminate tuition fees altogether.

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