OUSA discusses lobbying

Last weekend the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) held their general assembly at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo.

The two Waterloo schools hosted the other member universities – which include Brock, Queens, McMaster, Western and Windsor – to discuss the advocacy group’s policies and future lobbying campaigns.

John Milloy, Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities, spoke at the general assembly during a question and answer session, addressing their concerns and suggestions.

“It was really helpful to put in scope where post-secondary education is right now, the kind of framework in which we’re currently working into perspective,” said Kory Preston, Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union vice-president of university affairs, of Milloy’s attendance at the assembly.

Policies

OUSA delegates discussed and approved three papers regarding policies on the Repayment Assistance Program (RAP), creating a Pan Canadian Accord on education and student success.

The paper addressing the province’s RAP aims to improve aid available to students paying off their Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loans by replicating the federal government’s policies towards national loans.

The Pan Canadian Accord calls for “the provinces to come together and have a discussion about what post-secondary education should look like across the country,” according to Preston.

The student success report defined what quality education is, addressing items such as professors’ teaching quality and support services.

“The provincial government … wants to be funding universities based on quality,” said Griffin Carpenter, Laurier’s OUSA campus co-ordinator.

Carpenter explained that funding is currently based on a number of criteria that benefit student success.

Determining definite points in the paper required some discussion and amendments, as each university has different priorities.

“In the end it’s really interesting for OUSA to be able to actually come up with a definition of what quality education is, to be able to present it, to be able to build on it in the future,” said Preston.
Lobbying

Preston outlined OUSA’s three lobbying priorities for this year. “One is looking at the tuition framework … and the way the funding for universities is figured out.”

“The second is looking at the OSAP needs assessment and that’s on both ends.”

OSAP reform is already an issue OUSA has been lobbying. “A lot of students are feeling that OSAP isn’t supportive of their education and the true cost of education,” said Dan Moulton, president of OUSA.

Moulton explained that the method in which parental contributions, academic costs and living expenses are calculated needs to be reassessed. More importantly, he stated that OUSA is working to ensure that the loan repayment cap of $7,000 is maintained, not increased.

Student success was the final lobbying priority, according to Preston, which includes “trying to reframe the entire discussion on post-secondary education, in terms of what type of things need to be present at a university to make sure that our students are learning the best they can and having the most positive student experience.”

Research

“One of our first commitments of our long-term plan is to undertake more primary research and more primary policy work,” said Moulton.

On Nov. 9, OUSA, in partnership with student alliances on the provincial and national levels, will be distributing a national student survey to 19 universities, including Laurier.

Moulton explained the survey will look at “some of the policy initiatives that we’re undertaking so that we can better inform our current policy and better inform future policy development that we take to provincial and federal governments.”

Funding

A significant change that will aid in improving future OUSA initiatives was the decision to increase membership fees by $0.50 per student, so that a student membership cost totals $2.68.

For Laurier, this increase translates to approximately $6,000. Preston explained that “Laurier’s student body themselves will not be getting charged an extra $0.50 for their membership,” since WLUSU pays the OUSA fees.

“This is a cost that the student union will be able to absorb as part of their budgeting process,” he said.

The additional funding will allow OUSA to hire an additional staff member, offer current staff members with more standard salaries for the industry and fund research.

“There’s a large chunk of the funds that will allow us to engage in more primary research … [that] we’ve never really had the budget capacity to do before,” said Preston.

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