BY LUCAS HUTTERI
The future may get brighter for students at Conestoga College. Conestoga Students Inc. (CSI) has been flirting with the idea of joining the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), an advocacy organization that has 22 members and represents 255,000 post-secondary students. The implications of this could impact a lot of areas.
At CSI’s Sept. 20 Board of Directors meeting, Brittany Grieg and Scot Wyles gave a presentation on a CASA conference they attended in the summer. Wyles suggested holding a referendum to ask students if they wanted to join CASA.
“Getting involved with some of these organizations (that represent students) would help Conestoga by providing infrastructure and funding for the school,” said Justin McLaughlin, CSI’s vice-president, internal..
CASA would assist in these areas by lobbying the federal government for more money for post-secondary institutions. It could also help students with OSAP.
Organizations such as CASA advocate for a post-secondary education system that is accessible, affordable, innovative and of high quality. They also advocate for various services and policies such as tuition freezing.
However, CASA does charge a membership fee. According to their website, their fee structure is based on the number of full-time students a school has.
Because Conestoga has approximately 12,500 students, CSI would fall into the $2.84 per student category, resulting in a yearly membership fee of about $35,500.
CASA describes itself, on its website, www.casa-acae.com, as “a national voice for Canada’s post-secondary students. Established in 1995, CASA is a non-partisan, not-for-profit student organization composed of student associations from across Canada. We represent undergraduate, graduate and polytechnic associations. At its core, CASA advocates on behalf of post-secondary students to the federal government. When Canada’s leaders make decisions affecting our post-secondary education system, they turn to CASA for solutions.”
It goes on to say that through its member-driven structure and grassroots approach, CASA’s mission is to advocate for students using policy development and research, awareness campaigns, government relations and partnerships with other stakeholders. The association wants Canada to have “an accessible, affordable and high-quality post-secondary education system whose students enjoy an excellent quality of life.”
CASA’s “Wins for Students” page on the website lists some of its successes. These include advocating for an increase to needs-based grants in 1998, after which the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation (CMSF) was changed to 95 per cent needs-based and five per cent merit-based, from a former 50/50 split.
Also, between 2000 and 2008, CMSF gave out $320 million in non-repayable grants.
Of that amount, $144 million was the result of CASA’s efforts.
In 2009, the Canada Student Grant Program was introduced by the federal government. It was designed to provide relief for middle- and low-income students. In the 2016 budget it was announced that the student grant dispersal for part-time, middle-income and low-income students would be increased 50 per cent. As a result, 338,000 students will be receiving additional needs-based support.
If CSI’s board of directors decides joining CASA is a good idea, they will then discuss if a referendum should be held to ask students for their opinion.