EDMONTON -- The official Opposition is calling out the United Conservative government after Athabasca University announced it will be hiking its tuition next fall.

In an email sent out Friday afternoon, it was revealed students attending the university will pay seven per cent more beginning September 2020.

The email goes on to say the hike is due to budget cuts in education under Premier Jason Kenney’s helm.

David Eggen, the NDP critic for advanced education, said the news is harsh, but not unexpected.

“It’s a pretty nasty Christmas present Jason Kenney is dropping on our students in university,” said Eggen. “We expect most, if not all, universities to do the same in the coming weeks.”

Eggen said he’s worried about the future of post-secondary education over the coming years.

“Students are caught in between a rock and a hard place: their tuition is going up considerably and the quality of education is going down,” he said.

“We have the youngest population in Canada, but we also have the lowest participation rate for post-secondary. This is just going to make it a whole lot worse.”

The ministry of advanced education points to the MacKinnon panel, adding that the province's post-secondary system can be more efficient.

"The Minister was very clear with our institutions that they are to look first at administrative costs and overheads, when determining funding reductions, to lessen any potential impact on students. Surely university administration can look at its own expenses to find savings," a statement from Laurie Chandler, press secretary for the office of the minister of advanced education, read.

"Alberta’s post-secondary system can be more efficient. It is possible for us to reduce costs and increase access at the same time. Other provinces have shown it can be done, so we know we can do it."

Athabasca University has a student body of more than 40,000.