The new provincial budget cycle is coming up. Ahead of its release in spring, the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union discusses their plans for making the needs of students known to the province.
The students’ union released a USSU Holiday Wish List in December for the government to read. The list contains their priorities in advocating for students this term.
In the Wish List, the USSU asks the government to increase unrestricted institutional funding and eliminate interest on student loans. As for tuition, they ask for them to implement a reasonable and predictable tuition policy and waive tuition for students in foster care.
On the side of scholarships, the students’ union is asking for a subsidy for open educational resources for the Saskatchewan Advantage Scholarships. They are also pushing for scholarships, grants and bursaries for international students.
“Those are the six things that we wish for the government to consider and potentially implement within the budget,” USSU President Regan Ratt-Misponas said. “We’re going to be doing some more lobbying to ensure that we touch up on each point.”
After the 2019-20 provincial budget was released last March, the former USSU executive expressed their worry about seeing flat funding for post-secondary education for the second year in a row. Ahead of that budget, the former USSU president organized a campaign called InvestInUs to advocate for funding for post-secondary. However, their activities began less than a month before the budget was tabled and did not achieve great momentum.
Ratt-Misponas says that the current executive was told early in their term to advocate for post-secondary funding. It is common for the students’ union executive to advocate for this cause year after year.
“We began this process earlier on in the year. Already it was put on my radar to put focus on at the beginning of our term,” Ratt-Misponas said.
So far, the executive has met with the Minister of Advanced Education Tina Beaudry-Mellor in regards to lobbying for these various priorities. As well, the union has met with the university administration throughout the year to discuss the topic.
The executive has also made efforts at the federal level by lobbying with the Undergraduates for Canadian Research-Intensive Universities group.
“UCRU did a lobbying trip and that’s what we are proposing for this year. And we’re working towards organizing a lobby week in Ottawa to really advocate for affordable and accessible education for post-secondary students,” Ratt-Misponas said.
As the budget approaches, the students’ union will keep focusing on advocating for the six priorities mentioned in the USSU Holiday Wish List. Ratt-Misponas says that these six goals are achievable within the budget cycle.
“We’ve done a little bit of research in that and we’re focused again on the six ideas; they can be implemented within the budget,” Ratt-
As of 2019, the province’s budget is back in the black. The students’ union’s criticism at the time was that the budget was “balanced on the backs of students.” However, Ratt-Misponas is hopeful going into the new cycle and asks the government to address students’ needs.
“[There’s] a number of different issues that students face. Within this last year, I’ve heard multiple stories of students having to work two or three jobs in order to make ends meet all the while attending classes, sometimes up to five classes,” Ratt-
“I’m hoping that we’re able to see some good things come from this budget, but we’ll have to wait and see from what is announced.”
Ana Cristina Camacho/ News Editor
Photo: File/ Nadia Ristau