The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) has produced its annual pre-budget submission to the House of Commons standing committee on finance. CASA is an alliance of 25 student associations across Canada, including the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union. The pre-budget submission serves as a list of priorities for CASA in the coming year.
“This [the pre-budget submission] is an activity of the organization which allows us to communicate to the government what our membership believes are important areas of investment in post-secondary education for the federal government,” said Zach Dayler, national director of CASA.
“Over the past couple of years we have seen some success with this process, the implementation of programs such as the re-payment assistance plan, but as well being invited to testify before the committee,” he added.
The pre-budget submission states that “[t]he importance of accessing a post-secondary institution and completing a post-secondary credential in Canada will take on greater importance than ever in the next several decades” due to an economy that is shifting towards greater reliance on a highly-educated workforce and an aging population that will have to be supported by those who are working.
The document makes it clear that the cost of post-secondary education “has grown beyond the resources available to students” and that these costs are an important part of CASA’s message to governments. While recognizing the fiscal pressures on governments in the present economic situation, the pre-budget submission states that investment in education is an example of a strategic investment “that will promote sustained economic growth and strong returns to Canadians.”
“As an organization, we are definitely cognizant that there is little money in Canada for investing in new programs. As well, we get the sense that this government is not overly interested in making any major spending promises in this coming budget or economic update,” said Dayler, adding that the ideas proposed by CASA this year should not cost the government much, but will result in “high savings for students.”
The pre-budget submission focuses on three policy changes that CASA would like to see in the next year: “strengthen federal support for First Nations education”; “address unmet student financial need”; and “make books cheaper in Canada.” In order to achieve these objectives, the document lists a variety of policies supported by CASA.
To promote First Nations education, it is proposed that federal government lift the two per cent cap on spending increases to the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada’s post-secondary student support program. To assist students with their financial demands, it is proposed that the Canada student loans program loan limit be increased annually to keep up with inflation. To make books cheaper for students, it is proposed that the federal government open up the book retail industry sector to greater foreign competition.