By Jason Herring, September 4 2017 —
Affordability of education and increased institutional funding are among the issues that Alberta student executives plan to advocate for this year.
The Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) released their 2017–18 priorities list in late July. CAUS is an advocacy group consisting of student executives from major Alberta post-secondaries including the University of Calgary. Students’ Union president Branden Cave and vice-president external Shubir Shaikh sit on CAUS.
CAUS’s biggest priority for the year is the affordability of post-secondary education. According to Shaikh, the organization’s main goal is to have tuition tied to inflation.
Another CAUS proposal is to remove financial barriers to entry for students by reallocating revenue from tuition and education tax credits to grants for lower-income students. According to Shaikh, this would give students financial aid without costing the province.
“It’s a cost-neutral ask. It wouldn’t cost the government anything more than what they’re providing now,” Shaikh said.
The Alberta New Democratic Party implemented a tuition freeze in September 2015, which is set to last through the 2017–18 academic year. Alberta post-secondary institutions are not allowed to raise their tuition during the freeze.
CAUS is also advocating for more institutional funding from the province, particularly for ballooning deferred maintenance expenses. As of November 2016, the U of C has $490 million in deferred maintenance costs, while the University of Alberta has $800 million.
“We’re asking the province to invest in infrastructure projects on campus,” Shaikh said. “And we’re not just talking about new buildings. We’re talking about maintenance costs.”
In March, Alberta committed $270 million to redeveloping the MacKimmie complex.
CAUS’s priorities document also names governance structure, student employment opportunities and mental health as focal points.
The province may address some of CAUS’s priorities in the coming months. The NDP are in the midst of a review of the province’s public agencies, including all of Alberta post-secondaries. Results from the review are expected to be released this fall.
“We’re really interested to see what comes out of it,” Shaikh said. “When we met with the minister [of advanced education Marlin Schmidt] a couple weeks ago, he didn’t have anything concrete to tell us, but from the sound of it there’s a lot of cool things happening that are good for students.”