President’s message – Oct. 6, 2011

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On Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011, the University of Regina Students’ Union launched a student-issues campaign that will run parallel to the provincial election campaign. “Our Future is Now” focuses on five main issues: the skyrocketing rate of tuition, a lack of affordable housing, a need for additional childcare spaces, First Nations and aboriginal accessibility to post-secondary education, and student voting. Our Future is Now is integrated with the provincial ‘Vote Education’ campaign that was developed with locals in the Canadian Federation of Students Saskatchewan component.

As part of “Our Future is Now”, students will be asking the provincial political parties to commit to implementing a number of policies. The first policy suggestion is a tuition freeze. We recommend that the tuition freeze be in place for at least one year – this will give the government time to consult with students about what form a “tuition-management strategy” would take. Tuition is one of the largest upfront financial barriers to attending post-secondary education. From 2000 to 2005, the average tuition for full-time Saskatchewan undergraduates rose by 38 per cent, following a 137 per cent increase in the 1990s. Since 2008, tuition has skyrocketed another 11 per cent – clearly, Saskatchewan students could use a break. This province’s tuition is above the Canadian average and approximately $1,600 more when compared to Manitoba. The debt load of Saskatchewan students is one of the greatest in Canada, and university became more affordable as a direct result of the tuition freeze we had starting in 2004. It’s time for Saskatchewan to be a leader when it comes to post-secondary education affordability – I hope our politicians agree.

One recommendation that students are making as it relates to housing and childcare is that all political parties commit to immediately approving the University of Regina’s residence/childcare proposal. The proposal was submitted in early May of this year and has been collecting dust on  government shelves ever since. The proposal would add 608 new residence beds to the university and 180 new childcare spaces – which are desperately needed. We are pleased that one party – the New Democratic Party – has already pledged that they will approve and fund the proposal if elected. Hopefully the other parties will follow their lead and do what is best for students. There are several other recommendations in the areas of affordable housing and childcare, and you can find them at ursu.ca.

Finally, we want to focus on the extremely important issue of First Nations and aboriginal accessibility to post-secondary education. One of our recommendations is that all political parties commit to working with students in lobbying the federal government to eliminate the two–per-cent cap on the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP). Due to the arbitrary two-per-cent cap, fewer and fewer First Nations students have access to funding for post-secondary education. Another recommendation is that whoever is elected to government on Nov. 7 commit to establishing a provincial grants program for aboriginal students. Currently, no serious program exists and if we want to get real about making aboriginal education a priority in this province we must do it. Furthermore, students are asking that political parties commit to long-term and sustainable funding for the First Nations University of Canada.

Kent Peterson
URSU President

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