Federal policy good news to students

Student unions from all corners of Canada have pestered the federal government into taking several important steps for post-secondary education.

After a lengthy investigation and discussion with stakeholders, the federal government’s treasury board has tabled a number of recommendations regarding PSE in Canada. One important stakeholder consulted is the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, a lobby group of which the University of Calgary Students’ Union is a part.

“They have kept all the recommendations we provided,” said CASA public relations and communications officer Caen Suni. “Unfortunately, the recommendations are primarily being pushed forward by the opposition, so hopefully they make it in.”

Suni said a dedicated funding transfer for PSE is the most important of the recommendations.

The U of C SU agrees.

“The federal government makes a transfer to fund health and social programs, like education,” said SU vice-president external Julie Labonte. “But the province decides how to spend it, so most of it goes to health care. With the dedicated transfer, money would be set apart for education, so we should see more come to the university.”

CASA believes the dedicated transfer would lighten the load for students.

“Universities are like any other business, they cannot operate in the red,” explained Suni. “They have to forecast their expenses down the road, and the funding is not always stable. Tuition is just the most flexible way for universities to make up the difference. A dedicated transfer would mean more stable funding for the universities.”

CASA also wants to ensure the longevity of the Millennium Scholarship Foundation, an initiative which takes private and government money and uses it to send economically disadvantaged students to university. The program is set to expire in 2009.

“When that runs out, there will be a $3 billion hole in funding,” said Suni. “Accessibility is being dented and a lot of people feel they can’t attend universities now.”

The recommendations will likely be forwarded with the announcement of the next federal budget later this year, a time when the minority federal government is at risk of falling.

“We have to keep pushing this,” said Labonte. “We can’t afford to let people forget.”

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