Wins for Students

CASA has achieved remarkable success in its years of work on behalf of Canadian post-secondary students. This section outlines CASA’s record of success as an effective voice for students and a leader on issues pertaining to post-secondary education.

 

2017

$90 million investment helps First Nations and Inuit peoples attend post-secondary

CASA, along with First Nations organizations and stakeholders in the post-secondary sector, has long advocated for expanding funding to the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP). This program provides funding to First Nations and Inuit communities, who in turn provide funding to eligible students so that they can attend school. Regrettably, the program was subject to a 2% funding growth cap for nearly 20 years, and while the population of Indigenous youth grew 30% between 2004 and 2014, funding for the PSSSP increased by only 13% over the same period. This left behind a backlog of individuals who were eligible for and yet unable to access post-secondary education – a basic treaty right.

In Budget 2017, CASA was pleased to see government lift the 2% cap on the PSSSP and start making good on their commitment to provide post-secondary education to First Nations and Inuit peoples in Canada. Though $90 million is not enough to address the entire backlog of those waiting to begin their studies, it is certainly a promising start.

 

$395.5 million is invested to help youth get jobs

The Government of Canada describes their Youth Employment Strategy as their “commitment to help young people, particularly those facing barriers to employment, get the information and gain the skills, work experience and abilities they need to make a successful transition into the labour market.” The strategy includes programs that train young people, provide employers with funding to hire students and youth, and more.

As long-time advocates for youth employment programming and support, CASA was pleased to see, yet again, a large investment in the Youth Employment Strategy for Budget 2017.

 

Eliminating unpaid internships in federally regulated sectors

CASA strongly believes that students should be fairly compensated for their work. Unpaid internships are not a viable option for everyone, and even so, have shown to be less valuable than paid experience and can often be exploitative in nature.

As an organization that has long advocated for fairly compensated internships, CASA celebrated the announcement in Budget 2017 to modernize the Canada Labour Code to eliminate unpaid internships in federally regulated sectors.

 

Addressing gender-based violence on campus

Unfortunately, gender-based violence on post-secondary campuses is a big problem. In fact, 4 in 5 female undergraduate students report being a victim of dating violence and 29% report having experienced sexual assault.

CASA advocates for post-secondary institutions to establish stand-alone sexual assault policies and has presented to the Committee on the Status of Women on this subject. CASA was pleased to see government take a step forward on this issue, by investing $100.9 million to establish a National Strategy to Address Gender-Based Violence.

 

2016

Canada Student Grants increased by 50%

Budget 2016 announced an increase to the student grant dispersal by 50% for low-income, middle-income and part-time students. In other words, if your student grant was $2,000/year before this change, it increased to $3,000/year in the 2016-17 academic year! This increase represents an investment of $1.53 billion over five years, the largest investment to the program since 2009. As a result, an estimated 338,000 students will receive more financial support for their studies.

 

Graduates don’t have to pay back student loans until they make at least $25,000/year

As strong supporters of the Repayment Assistance Plan, CASA has consistently advocated to expand the reach of the program since it was introduced in 2008. In 2016, government increased the income threshold for a single individual to $25,000, while also increasing the income thresholds for larger family sizes. This means that Canadians no longer have to pay back their student loans until they make at least $25,000/year and ensures that post-secondary debt does not significantly hinder one’s ability to pay for basic living costs. See CASA’s press release for more information.

 

Largest federal investment in over a decade to support Canadian post-secondary research and innovation

A major source of funding for Canadian post-secondary research is the Tri-Council Agencies: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

Following CASA’s advocacy efforts to increase research funding, Budget 2016 saw the largest investment in Canada’s Tri-Council 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.

 

Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy is expanded

The Government of Canada describes their Youth Employment Strategy as their “commitment to help young people, particularly those facing barriers to employment, get the information and gain the skills, work experience and abilities they need to make a successful transition into the labour market.” The strategy includes programs that train young people, provide employers with funding to hire students and youth, and more.

As long-time advocates for youth employment programming and support, CASA was pleased to see $165 million allocated to expand Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy in Budget 2016. An estimated 17,000 young people will gain valuable work experience as a result of this measure. 

 

Up to $2 billion invested into post-secondary infrastructure projects

To help foster a productive learning environment for students, government invested up to $2 billion into post-secondary infrastructure projects over a 2-year period. Infrastructure investments are essential to ensuring a post-secondary experience for students that is innovative and of the highest quality.

 

Expanded work integrated learning opportunities

Work integrated learning opportunities, including paid internships, apprenticeships, and co-ops, give students practical experience in their field. It comes as no surprise that participation in these opportunities are linked to strong employment outcomes post-graduation. CASA has long advocated for increasing the number of work integrated learning opportunities for students.

Budget 2016 saw investments in work integrated learning opportunities to the tune of $73 million. As a result, thousands more students will be able to participate in compensated work integrated learning opportunities while attending higher education.

 

2015

All publicly funded Canadian research becomes Open Access

In its 2013 pre-budget submission, CASA recommended that the federal government require all publicly funded research to be made available in an Open Access format. This would make research results freely available for all, without restrictions on use through copyright or license restrictions. This free flow of information promotes accessibility and helps foster increased research and innovation.

By spring 2013, the Tri-Council Agencies (SSHRC, CIHR, and NSERC), had begun the process of bringing this recommendation to fruition by harmonizing their Open Access policies. These policies were made official for all three agencies in 2015, following consultations with CASA and other stakeholders.

 

2014

Owning a vehicle is no longer a disadvantage when applying for student financial aid

The Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP), which provides loans and grants to post-secondary students with financial need, has a complex set of criteria for determining one’s eligibility. One such criteria, known as the assessment of borrower assets, required applicants to submit the value of their vehicle alongside other assets. In determining a student’s eligibility for a loan, CSLP counted these assets against them. As a result, students who owned vehicles were unfairly awarded less financial aid, or in some cases, refused a loan entirely. Those students who relied on their vehicle to get to class were especially harmed by this policy.

For these reasons, CASA advocated against this practice. To our excitement, Budget 2014 announced that the value of a single vehicle would be exempted from the CSLP assessment of borrower assets. This change marked an increase in student financial assistance by nearly $8 million per year and helps over 19,000 students annually!

CASA is proud to have played such an integral role in establishing the vehicle exemption. In addition to being the only organization to make this recommendation in Ottawa, the clear similarities between CASA’s and the government’s wording demonstrate that our student members were heard loud and clear.

 

Multiple-Entry Visas are introduced for international students

In February 2014, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (now Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) announced that they would be introducing multiple-entry visas and reducing the visa application fee by $50 for international students studying in Canada. Prior to this, international students were required to reapply and pay for visas each time they wished to leave or enter the country. This lengthy and costly process made it more difficult for students to visit their families back home. Under the new rules, international students are issued a multi-year study permit for $150 and, in most cases, do not have to reapply for the duration of their studies.

 

2012

Education becomes a fair dealing exemption to copyright infringement

CASA lobbied the federal government to hold public consultations regarding copyright since June 2009. As a result, we were invited to participate in three roundtable meetings on the subject and to submit a formal written recommendation on amending copyright law.

In 2012, Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Copyright Act (also known as the Copyright Modernization Act) added education to the list of fair dealing exemptions from copyright infringement. In other words, if a copyrighted work is copied by someone for the sole purpose of education and within reasonable limitations, this is no longer deemed copyright infringement. Instead, it’s considered as “fair dealing”.

This copyright exemption allows for information to flow more freely in an educational setting, which in turn promotes learning. Without fair dealing, students wouldn’t be able to photocopy an article from their school library, copy a photo to use in an assignment, show a short video or music clip during a class presentation, and more. Class instruction would also suffer without fair dealing, since teachers would be subject to the same restrictions.

In addition to the education fair dealing exemption, Bill C-11 expanded certain pre-existing exemptions to copyright infringement to facilitate new activities like distance education.

 

2009

Knowledge Infrastructure Program is created

CASA has long advocated for government to support infrastructure enhancement at post-secondary institutions across Canada. In January of 2009, the federal government announced the introduction of the Knowledge Infrastructure Program, a 2-year, $2-billion plan to revitalize facilities at Canadian universities, cégeps, and colleges. These investments were used to improve research labs, practical skills training facilities, classrooms, and more.

The Knowledge Infrastructure Program openly acknowledged CASA’s influence on its establishment and implementation. The website for the program noted that it responded “to the needs of students as identified by the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.”

 

Canada Student Grant Program is introduced to help students in need

As a strong advocate for increasing needs-based grants since its inception, CASA was extremely pleased to see the introduction of the Canada Student Grant Program. Up-front non-repayable assistance is a key mechanism for helping students with financial need access and afford a post-secondary education. In 2013-2014, over 360,000 students received non-repayable grants as part of their federal student financial aid package.

 

2008

The Repayment Assistance Plan is created to help graduates pay off their student debt

CASA began advocating for interest relief and debt repayment assistance in 1999. Finally in 2008, the federal government introduced the Repayment Assistance Plan (RAP), a program to help recent graduates better manage their student loan payments. The RAP has proven to be both successful and cost-effective, with student default rates hitting record lows since its implementation.

From 2009 to 2014, the RAP provided a total of $598 million in financial assistance to those struggling to repay their student loans. This program assisted 233,684 former students in 2013-2014 alone. With the help of the RAP, former students considered higher risk for defaulting and bankruptcy are given the resources to avoid this outcome while continuing to contribute to Canada’s economy in a meaningful way.

 

2007

The Pan-Canadian Education Indicators Program is created to collect accurate data on Canada’s education system

The better informed policy-makers are about Canada’s education system, the more improvements can be made. CASA first adopted a policy to create a pan-Canadian data set in November 2007 and successfully lobbied the federal government to initiate a serious process aimed at creating just that. Following many consultations with CASA and other stakeholder groups, the federal government established the Pan-Canadian Education Indicators Program in 2007. CASA was pleased to see that many of our recommendations had been included in the program.

 

2006

$1 billion in funding for campus maintenance and repairs

Due to a number of factors from the early 2000’s, including ageing campuses and demands for new space, Canadian post-secondary institutions were forced to find creative ways to save costs. In many cases, institutions chose to achieve this by postponing maintenance activities. Over time, these postponed maintenance projects on campus began to add up and started negatively impacting students and the quality of their education.

In 2005, CASA began advocating for additional Accumulated Deferred Maintenance (ADM) funding to help institutions renew their facilities and get back on track. Government responded by injecting $1 billion dollars into ADM funding for 2006.

 

2003

Program established to fund indirect costs of research

Indirect costs of research are expenses that cannot be directly attributed to a specific research project, but that are nonetheless required to conduct research. Examples include the cost of administering and managing research, powering library computer networks, renovating laboratories, and conducting basic maintenance.

In its 2001 Pre-Budget Submission, CASA called for further investments in the indirect costs of research in order to strengthen Canada’s research and the quality of its post-secondary education. The “Indirect Costs Program” was established in 2003, and it continues to exist today as the “Research Support Fund.” Funding currently totals $342 million per year across the three Tri-Council Agencies.

 

1998

The Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation focused in on students with financial need

The Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundations (CMSF), an independent, non-governmental organization, was created by an act of Parliament in 1998 to improve access to and reduce debt from post-secondary education over a ten-year mandate. The CMSF started out as a 50/50 merit-based and needs-based fund. Though an incredibly helpful foundation, the needs-based funding was limited and many low-income Canadians remained unable to afford post-secondary.

CASA stepped in that same year, advocating for an increase in needs-based, non-repayable grants. As a result, the CMSF changed its scholarship structure to become 95% needs-based and only 5% merit-based. From 2000 to 2008, the CMSF distributed $320 million in non-repayable grants, $144 million of which would not have existed without CASA’s advocacy efforts in this area.