Over the holidays, the Alliance of B.C. Students (ABCS) asked the provincial government for better support for post-secondary students across the province, surveying students from various campuses to ask students what they want from the government for Christmas. The ABCS is planning to lobby the provincial government this spring.
The ABCS is a coalition of student unions from Langara College, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, the University of Fraser Valley, Capilano University, and the University of British Columbia Graduate Student Society.
Jeremy Law, the Kwantlen Student Association executive secretary, was part of the team asking students across KPU campuses questions. He says many of the student responses included requests for more mental health support, sexual violence prevention, legislation to support students with disabilities, open education resources, and affordable housing for students.
Law says hearing the responses from students helps the ABCS know what requests to lobby for and how to support students better.
The process of lobbying would have required travel to Victoria but with the COVID-19 pandemic carrying on, a virtual lobby has been implemented. In the virtual lobby, members of ABCS will meet with politicians to present the requests made by students, and listen to the plans for implementing those requests.
One of the demands that have been lobbied for in the past by the ABCS is a two per cent cap on annual tuition increases for international students.
While domestic students have an idea of what their tuition could be like each semester because of the price cap, it’s not the same for international students. StatsCan reported that international students saw a tuition price increase of 4.9 per cent in 2021 and 2022.
One request Law plans to include in the lobby is to lower the cost of education. Students who pay their tuition out of pocket pay less than students who apply for loans due to the interest added, Law says.
This creates a disadvantage for students who require loans as they are placed in a financial position where interest piles up as they finish their degree and work to pay off their fees.
Law says a situation like this shows the need for better financial support for students in school.
“Education should be an accessible and affordable and quality [thing] that everyone can access,” Law says.
The B.C access grants provide some support for students, but Law says it doesn’t include graduate and mature students, so there will be more advocating for that inclusion.
The prevention of sexual violence is another one of the requests Law wants the provincial government to take seriously and provide support for. He wants more investments towards sexual violence prevention, as well as informing people about sexual violence and how it can be prevented.
“We know that sexualized violence does happen on campuses, but oftentimes it’s not addressed [or it’s] neglected, and that really does harm a student’s ability to focus on education or be able to actually study in a safe environment,” he says.
From his work with the KSA, Law says the politicians he spoke to have been collaborative and have welcomed an open dialogue. He says the student response to the requests to the government helps the KSA better curate what they advocate for.
“This is really the crux of what advocacy is. Actually representing what is most needed by students right now, because of course when we advocate, we can’t put every single issue that a student has on the table,” he says.