Building a post-secondary system that is of high quality and accessible to all learners in British Columbia is at the heart of what the BCFS stands for.
That’s why student representatives from across the province head to Victoria to meet with MLAs to discuss the issues impacting students and to push for meaningful change.
This year, the Federation, joined by representatives from the British Columbia Institute of Technology Student Association and the Student Union Society of the University of Fraser Valley, held its annual Lobby Week October 26 to 27, bringing together seventeen students’ associations that represent more than 210,000 students across British Columbia.
Student representatives lobbied 45 MLAs bringing forward recommendations that highlight accessible education as a critical tool not only to stimulate economic recovery and equip British Columbians with the skills needed to fill labour market demands, but to simultaneously uplift individuals and families struggling with increased costs of living and negative minimum wage growth.
Student Financial Assistance:
The first recommendation focuses on reallocating $70 million of tuition tax credits to the BC Access Grant – a progressive program that provides up-front, needs-based, non-repayable loans that would aid low- and middle- income British Columbians to re-train and re-skill to ensure their entry, or return to the post-pandemic workforce.
We know that one of the biggest issues with accessing education is allowing people to get their foot in the door. We want to ensure everyone has an opportunity to get an education without having to worry about financial barriers.
Institutional Funding and Fees:
Our second recommendation centres around the need for the government’s ongoing institutional funding review to determine gaps in government funding, particularly for rural and regional colleges and universities. Additionally, we are asking the government to provide an infusion of $200 million annually.
Tuition fees in BC have more than doubled since 2001 with the proportion of public funding to the province’s institutions dropping to 41.1%. How can we continue to call these ‘public institutions’ when the majority of funding now comes from tuitions fees?
Increased annual investments will ensure institutions across the province are adequately funded allowing for a freeze in tuition fees and the development of a plan to progressively reduce tuition fees, ultimately lessening the burden on students and their families.
Another component of this recommendation includes strengthening the Tuition Fee Limit Policy, highlighting the need for the policy to prevent institutions from circumventing tuition caps through adding increasingly predatory ancillary fees.
Fairness for International Students:
The third recommendation student representatives discussed underscores the critical need to implement an international tuition fee cap to help regulate and ensure fee increases are fair, consistent, and predictable.
International fees have gone up by 594% since 2001. With no regulation on these fees, institutions have the ability to increase them by whatever amount they need to fill the gaps in their budget. Like domestic students, international students should be able to budget for their education and not expect their fees to increase by significant, unknown amounts at any given time.
The province additionally needs to release a new international education strategy that will provide sufficient supports for international students to aid in their cultural, social, and academic integration.
Our final recommendation is the development of a province-wide apprenticeship completion strategy that includes provisions for returning apprenticeship counsellors back to campuses, in order to combat the drop in completion rates seen as a consequence of the gutting of supports for apprentices and the deregulation of skill trades in BC tied to the dissolution and replacement of the Industry Training and Apprenticeship Commission (ITAC) with the Industry Training Authority (ITA).
As a non-trades student, when you need support figuring out what courses you need to take in order to graduate, you have the ability to speak to an academic counsellor and get recommendations. So why was this option taken away for trades students?
Our recommendations were met favourably by both the government and opposition. We are excited to work alongside all MLAs to progress our goals of ensuring public post-secondary education in British Columbia is accessible, affordable and of the highest quality.
To learn more, you can read the policy proposals published in our lobby document Fund It. Fix It.: Post-Secondary Education as a Key to BC’s Economic Recovery.
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