Reliable and transparent funding
The 2021 Mental Health Index indicated that Alberta’s post-secondary students struggle more than students in any other province with mental health. Mental health grants are often distributed by the Government of Alberta on a short term basis which leads to less consistent support on campus. Long term funding commitments tied to institutional base funding will ensure students will have access to the resources they need.
Reducing money stress for those most impacted by affordability
Students most impacted by the growing affordability crisis are most likely to be among the 62% of students who rely on student loans to fund their studies. ASEC calls for a 25% forgiveness of AB Student Loans when graduates are working in Alberta within three years. While the March 2023 reduction of loans to prime was a step in the right direction, ASEC calls for the further reduction of student loan interest to 0%, in line with the Government of Canada and five other provinces.
Transparency and consultation of fees
Currently Students' Associations must approve new MNIF's, after that point an institutions may increase or expand what is included within an MNIF at their own discretion. Many students' MNIF bills increase by double digits each year with no explanation or perceived improvement of services. ASEC recommends an amendment to Section 61.6 of the Post-Secondary Learning Act that would introduce additional consultation requirements for students' associations in cases where a fee increases by 10% or more in a single year. Additionally, ASEC seeks to advocate for increased transparency from institutions as to what is included in the scope of each MNIF.
Minimizing red tape for international students while ensuring a supportive experience
Since 2000, international student enrollment has surged by over 400%, with many planning for their studies to be their pathway to permanent residency. While international students have increasingly become pillars of campus communities through their service, work, and bringing of new perspectives and cultural richness, we can do better at supporting them. With tuition unregulated, working through studies is often integral in being able to meet costs of living. ASEC recommends the 40 hour work cap continue and that hours worked during school count towards Permanent Residency applications. Furthermore, minimizing repetition in the process, such as taking the IELTS language test multiple times.
With half of students experiencing sexual and GBV during their studies (link to survey results), it is clear that post-secondary institutions should be part of the solution for this pervasive challenge. ASEC calls for a roundtable led by government and comprising stakeholders from various departments and community organizations for a systemic shift that creates safe campuses and communities.
Open Educational Resources
ASEC is proud to take part in a provincial working group with students from various institutions as well as librarians working to advance the movement of open educational resources in Alberta. While some campuses have been keen at hosting #ABTextbookBroke campaigns, the group also authors op-ed's and submits budget submissions to the provincial government!
As most households' largest monthly expense, attainable housing is a priority for students both in metro and rural areas in Alberta. ASEC continues to keep housing top of mind with stakeholders as it is an undeniable stressor which is exacerbated for students who may not have this history or credentials to secure market housing and residences across the province are reporting record waitlists.
Work Integrated Learning
ASEC has long advocated in support of Work Integrated Learning (WIL) programs across all post-secondary learning environments. We are proud to be working with the Alberta Chambers of Commerce and Alberta Post-Secondary Network on engaging students in an insight community that collects data into their journey to the workforce so we can continue building meaningful policies.
ASEC Member campuses span across Treaties 5, 7, and 8. We keep top of mind the TRC Calls to Action in our work and relationships. We actively seek to strengthen our relationships with Indigenous peoples so we can be active agents of reconciliation.
Core to many discussions ASEC holds with stakeholders is the need for meaningful consultation with students. It is critical that decisions made about post-secondary education are made in genuine collaboration with students. Meaningful consultation ensures that allocated resources maximize their impact for those whom they are intended for.