OUSA lobbies MPPs

From Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) lobbied over 60 members of provincial parliament on key issues surrounding post-secondary education.

Kory Preston, vice-president of university affairs for the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union, and WLUSU president Laura Sheridan participated in the lobby conference, meeting with 34 MPPs.

According to OUSA president Dan Moulton, the three key issues brought forward to the MPPs were quality of education, tuition and student financial assistance.

OUSA feels that student success is determined by the overall quality of education and services available. “What the government is doing to take leadership is ensuring that our institutions have the best programs to support students,” said Moulton.

The focus on tuition was a result of investment framework: the province’s Reaching Higher plan, expiring this year.

OUSA highlighted the need to maintain regulations on tuition based off the consumer price index to reflect inflation rather than the current arbitrary five per cent inflation cap.

The stance on student financial assistance and the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) reform received a great deal of attention during the lobbying, according to Preston.

“Right now you can get a total of $11,900 from OSAP, which, as you know and as all the students at Laurier know, $11,900 is not enough to live for a full year in the city of Waterloo and pay tuition and pay for books,” said Preston.

OUSA is recommending that the government raise the maximum loan available to students through OSAP to surpass the poverty lines designated for the province.

Finally, they are pressuring the government to maintain the cap of $7,000 for loan repayments. Currently when more than $7,000 in loans are received though OSAP for a year by a student, the difference in funds is repaid in the form of grants.

Moulton assured that despite other political movements currently occurring in the legislature, OUSA’s efforts have not been ignored.

“The MPPs at the legislature are committed to these issues and despite the disruptions that are going on, they still want to meet with us and still want to make sure they’re discussing the issues that are important to students,” said Moulton.

OUSA is expecting positive outcomes from their efforts as early as next year.

“We’re expecting that by the time the next budget roles around for the 2010 year we’ll see another investment from the government and we’re hoping that investment in post-secondary education will be adequate and address some of these needs,” said Preston.

Although ideally the economic benefits will be implemented in next year’s budget, Moulton explained that it is not likely for its effects to be seen for another two or three years.

The inclusion of OUSA’s recommendations on funding for student services, tuition increase and loan maximums in the budget does however ensure that post-secondary education remains a priority.

“Despite the economic times that we’re in now, the government and the members throughout the house recognize that this is an important part of our provincial economy and the future of the province relies heavily on post-secondary education,” said Moulton.