CASA has achieved remarkable success in its 21 years of work on behalf of Canadian students in Ottawa. This section outlines CASA’s record of success as an effective voice for students and leader on issues pertaining to post-secondary education.
CASA’s advocacy efforts span multiple areas and benefit students from all backgrounds:
Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation
In 1998, CASA advocated for an increase to needs-based, non-repayable grants. As a result, the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation (CMSF) was changed from being 50/50 merit-based and needs-based to 95% needs-based and only 5% merit-based. From 2000 to 2008, the CMSF delivered $320 million in non-repayable grants. Of that amount, $144 million resulted from CASA’s advocacy efforts.
Repayment Assistance Plan
CASA began advocating for interest relief and debt repayment assistance in 1999. Implemented in 2008, the Repayment Assistance Plan (RAP) has proven to be a successful and cost-effective program for reducing default on student debt, while allowing students to make affordable payments on their loans.
RAP has provided a total of $598 million in financial assistance from 2009 to 2014, to those struggling to repay their student loans. This program assisted 233,684 students in 2013-2014 alone. As a result of RAP, those students who qualify for the program are able to avoid defaulting and bankruptcy, while continuing to contribute to Canada’s economy in a meaningful way.
In the 2016 Federal Budget, the government invested $131.4 million to increase the RAP threshold to $25,000 in order to more accurately reflect the cost of living in 2016.
Principle Vehicle Exemption from Canada Student Loans Program Assessment of Borrower Assets
Budget 2014 announced that the value of a single vehicle would be exempted from the Canada Student Loans Program assessment of borrower assets. CASA has been the only organization to make this recommendation in Ottawa and was pleased to see it acted on.
The wording used by the federal government in the budget mirrored CASA messages clearly, demonstrating that student voices had been heard. This investment will increase financial assistance to students by nearly $8 million per year, while helping over 19,000 students annually.
Canada Student Grants
CASA has been a strong advocate for increasing needs-based grants since the organization’s inception. In 2009, the federal government introduced the Canada Student Grant Program designed to provide up-front relief to low and middle-income students.
Budget 2016 announced an increase to the student grant dispersal by 50% for low-income, middle-income and part-time students. This increase came at an investment of $1.53 billion over five years, the largest investment to the program since 2009. As a result, 338,000 students will receive additional needs-based support.
Research and Innovation
Indirect Costs of Research
In the 2001 Pre-Budget Submission, CASA advocated for further investments toward indirect costs of research in order to strengthen Canada’s research capacity as part of its innovation agenda. This program was established in 2003 as the “Indirect Costs Program”, and continues to exist as the “Research Support Fund”. Funding currently totals 342 million per year for the three granting agencies.
Following CASA’s advocacy efforts, Budget 2016 saw the largest investment in Canada’s tri-council granting agencies in over a decade. A total of $141 million was allocated to support research and innovation, ensuring students are empowered to conduct top-tier research.
Open Access to Publicly Funded Research
In its 2013 pre-budget submission, CASA included the recommendation that federal government require all publicly funded research to be made available in an Open Access format. By early spring of 2013, the federal granting agencies, SSHRC, CIHR, and NSERC had begun the process of harmonizing their Open Access policies, which would bring this recommendation to fruition. These policies have been made official for all three granting agencies as of 2015, after consultations with CASA and other stakeholders.
Since June of 2009, CASA has successfully lobbied the federal government to hold public consultations and was invited by the Ministers of Canadian Heritage and Industry to three roundtable meetings, one of the highest participation rates from any post-secondary education stakeholder. Furthermore, at the request of both Ministers, CASA has submitted a formal written recommendation on copyright amendment.
Creating a Pan-Canadian Data Set
Since November 2007 when CASA adopted a policy on creating a pan-Canadian data set, our organization has successfully lobbied the federal government to initiate a serious process aimed at creating a pan-Canadian data set. This process has included multiple consultations with CASA, and the federal government has incorporated many of CASA’s recommendations into its working plan.
Multiple-Entry Visas for International Students
In February 2014, Citizenship and Immigration Canada announced a move to provide multiple-entry visas and to reduce the application fee by $50. CASA advocated for this change because, prior to this, students were given study permits that required many to constantly re-apply for visitor visas to come and go from Canada. Under the new rules, international students will be issued a multiyear study permit for $150 and will not have to reapply for the duration of their studies in most cases.
Youth Employment Strategy
Budget 2016 saw an investment of $165 million allocate to expand Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy. An estimated 17,000 young people will gain valuable work experience from this measure.
Work Integrated Learning Opportunities
Budget 2016 also saw investments in work integrated learning opportunities to the tune of $73 million. An estimated 7,500 students will access paid co-op placements while attending higher education. Compensated internships, apprenticeships and co-ops continue to be linked to strong employment outcomes post-graduation.
Knowledge Infrastructure Program
The Knowledge Infrastructure Program has openly acknowledged CASA’s influence in the creation and continued funding of the program. On its website, the federal government says the program “responds to the needs of students as identified by the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.”
In the 2005 Lobby Document, CASA advocated for additional Accumulated Deferred Maintenance (ADM) funding. The Liberal government responded with $1 billion being injected into ADM funding for 2006. In the 2009 Federal Budget, an additional $2 billion was allocated over the course of the following two years. In the 2016 Federal Budget up to $2 billion was invested into post-secondary infrastructure projects over the next 2 years.