The Alliance of BC Students Advocates for Government Service Budget Changes

The organization has listed five suggestions for making post-secondary school more accessible

(submitted)

The Alliance of BC Students has submitted their recommendations for B.C.’s 2021 and 2022 Budget to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services.

The ABCS is a student-led organization which advocates at the provincial level for accessible and affordable post-secondary education in B.C. It is a coalition of five different student associations from across the province: The Kwantlen Student Association, the Capilano Students’ Union, the University of The Fraser Valley Student Union Society, Langara’s Student Union Association, and the Graduate Students Society at UBC Vancouver.

The submission states that 48 per cent of surveyed students lost their jobs or were temporarily laid off due to the pandemic, and 68 per cent of students were worried they would have to spend their savings on covering the losses.

The budget proposes five recommendations, one of which is funding for BCCampus and Open Educational Resources. According to the submission, during 2012 and 2020, open educational resources have saved students over $18 million.

The second recommendation is that the Tuition Limit Policy be modified to include international student tuition, limiting the ability to increase tuition for international students.

“A lot of times people think that international students are rich and they just come here with loads of money, but that’s often not the case,” says Jeremy Law, KPU Tech Campus Representative.

Law says many international students face language barriers at the same time as struggling to pay for education and rent. He also says some have a difficult time finding a home due to discriminatory behaviour from landlords.

The third recommendation is the elimination of Medical Service Plan fees for all international  and domestic students.

The fourth recommendation is that universities recognize a budget deficit for 2020 to 2021 due to COVID-19.

“Universities are scrambling and what we heard from them was that [it] could mean they will be cutting services, or cutting course offerings, or even laying staff off, and we know that the first staff to be laid off will be the students who work for their universities,” says Grace Dupasquier, Chairperson of ABCS.

Law says the budget deficit allows post-secondary institutions to recognize that their expenses are higher than their income.

For the fifth recommendation, the Alliance suggests that the provincial government open up the BC Access Grant to include graduate students.

“They are not loans, you don’t have to pay them back, there is no interest in them, and they are not merit-based,” says Duspasquier. “You don’t have to prove you have the grades for them. It’s going to people who need it the most.”

Law says the grant shouldn’t be merit-based because some students might have to sacrifice their grades to focus on work.

“When it comes to the situation regarding international students, we have so many students who are not supported, who have huge financial strains on them, who can’t afford to go back to school,” says Duspasquier.

She says this situation with international students also impacts domestic students.

“Now, domestic students who might be able to go back to school are facing reduced services because their schools depend on international school tuition,” says Duspasquier.

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