Student lobby group continues to grow

The Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) will soon add another student union to its roster.

If all goes to plan, MacEwan University’s student union will leave the Alberta Students’ Executive Council (ASEC) at the end of March to join CAUS.

“There was a special meeting a couple weeks ago where the Students’ Association of MacEwan University (SAMU) put forward a motion with the intent to leave ASEC,” said Conner Brown, the current chair of CAUS and vice-president external of the University of Calgary Students’ Union. “Attached to that motion will be a motion to join CAUS, so it will all happen at the same time.”

ASEC is a provincial lobbying group for students attending Alberta’s colleges and technical institutions. CAUS is similar, but represents undergraduate students in universities.

SAMU’s move comes two months after the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University joined CAUS last January.

If their motion to leave ASEC passes SAMU will have observer status in CAUS for one fiscal year. This means they can take part in debate, but can’t vote on decisions.

Brown expects CAUS’s lobbying power to increase with MacEwan’s inclusion.

“CAUS already has a lot of influence and we’re very fortunate for that, but it can only increase,” Brown said. “We now represent every brick-and-mortar university student in the province. That carries a lot of weight.”

Ignite Alberta — an advocacy organization affiliated with CAUS — recently surveyed Albertan students about post-secondary education. They found that students are concerned with the affordability and accessibility of education. Of those surveyed, 92 per cent placed a “high importance” on affordability and 88 per cent said finances should not be a barrier to post-secondary education.

Brown said the survey has given newfound legitimacy to CAUS’s advocacy.

“In the past, it was kind of hard to make that tangible connection between what we were advocating for and [whether or not] students actually wanted that,” Brown said. “Ignite really secured the foundation for what we have been advocating for.”

Deputy Premier and Minister of Advanced Education Dave Hancock will meet with CAUS on March 11. Brown said he plans to ask the minister about tuition for international students, mental health funding and mandatory non-instructional fees.

“One of the biggest things still are mandatory non-instructional fees. We’ll be hitting that hard,” Brown said. “Also, we want a little bit more insight into what’s going on with open textbooks. We’ve heard word that the ball is rolling on that. We’d really like to see what that looks like.”

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