Lobbying for education

The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) lobbied the federal government during the week of March 8 in light of the presentation of the 2010 budget.

CASA, representing 24 post-secondary institutions across Canada, including Wilfrid Laurier University, focused on funding and policy changes regarding student loans, research, employment incentives and outreach programs.

“We had a very multi-tiered focus on education … and we were basically there to express those asks and have a dialogue with the [elected] officials,” said Kory Preston, Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union vice-president of university affairs, who was a CASA delegate.

The budget announced an $8 million investment in the Indirect Costs Program to fund research at post-secondary institutions.

“It’s important that the indirect cost of research gets funded. Right now the only way to fund these costs is through tuition,” explained Preston.

“When the government does make investments in research, it takes a lot of the pressure off of universities to raise tuition.”

Although this shows foresight from the government regarding the importance of bringing down the cost of tuition, the investment did not come close to the $300 million lobbied for by CASA to support the total indirect costs of education across the country.

The federal government did invest $20 million in Pathways to Education, a program that facilitates outreach to Canadian youth who are identified as unlikely to enter the post-secondary system and provides them the resources to overcome the barriers they face.

CASA also proposed more policy-specific reforms focused on the Canada Student Loan Program, which makes up 60 per cent of the funding Ontario students receive in government loans.

Currently, students receiving loans are only allowed to earn $50 per week during the school year without having negative impacts on their funding.

“We were asking the government to move that to $100 instead of $50 to allow students – especially students who had a hard time finding summer employment – to find ways to offset the cost of their education and make up for the actual needs of education as well,” said Preston.
Whether these changes will be made has yet to be determined.

Despite many shortcomings in the budget, Preston and Tina Robichaud, chair of CASA, agreed that it was satisfactory in addressing post-secondary education in a period of economic recession.

“Overall, the budget was a good step in the right direction and I think in the economic climate that we’re in it’s about as good as we’re going to get,” said Preston.

Robichaud stated that CASA would continue to lobby the federal government on these issues throughout the year in hopes of having a more substantial impact on the 2011 budget.

Federal budget investments for post-secondary education

$32 million
for federal research agencies

$30 million
in wage support for Career Focus

$20 million
to Pathways to Education

$8 million
for the Indirect Costs Program

140
new fellowships for doctoral graduates

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