The federal government has very little to do with post-secondary education, at least in comparison to the provinces. However, the federal government does offer educational grants for students in need, provides funding to the provinces for universities & colleges, and legislates in areas such as copyright, student visas etc.
The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations(CASA) is similar to OUSA in that it is an association of student unions created to promote student interests to the government; however, CASA is a lobby and research organization working at the federal level. BUSU became a full member of CASA in 2001, and the organization has now grown to represent over 300,000 students. CASA represents 26 full-member student unions from coast to coast, and 1 associate member. CASA prides itself on thorough and comprehensive research on educational issues so as to influence national educational policy. CASA also routinely develops government and committee submissions on post-secondary issues.
The Vice President of University Affairs for BUSU, Steven Nicholls, is the representative to CASA. Unlike OUSA, CASA is too big for each member representative to sit on a Steering Committee, so the organization has a Board of Directors, which is elected every June/July. For the last two years and counting, the VPUA of BUSU has been elected to the Board, which attests to the hard work for which we are known.
BUSU has been a heavy-hitter in CASA, just as in OUSA, having initiated committee work and policy development, as well as significant lobbying efforts with MPs that have helped to increase CASA’s prestige on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Since its creation, CASA has many notable achievements:
- creation of Student Loan Interest Tax Credit – 17% tax relief for payments on federal and provincial loans;
- interest relief deferral period on student loans increased from 30 to 54 months;
- tax relief for part-time students (for the first time, p/t students can claim partial tax credit);
- RRSP withdrawal made tax-free for lifelong learning
- changes to taxation policy exempting up to $3000 in scholarship money
- education tax credit increased several times
- increased Canada Study Grant for Students with Disabilities from $5 000 to $8 000
- obtained legal right to work off-campus for international students everywhere in the country
- secured over $4 Billion in transfers to provinces to make PSE more affordable
- extended Canada Access Grant to all four years of study for students from low-income families
- eliminated tax on all scholarships, fellowships and bursaries
- textbook tax credit of $65/month ($20/mth for part time students);
- expanded eligibility for Canada Student Loans & reduction of expected parental contribution
- inclusion of education as a fair-dealing exemption under new copyright legislation
CASA meets 3 times a year to discuss policy and research/lobby priorities with all member schools. The location of these conferences varies as they rotate around the country on a regular basis.
How can students get involved with CASA?
Students can get involved in several different ways by contacting Steven Nicholls. CASA completes a lot of research on post-secondary issues, meets with and lobbies politicians & bureaucrats frequently, and organizes campus-level informational campaigns. If interested in contributing time and research to this organization and its efforts, feel free to email Steve or Kerri Behling (see below for contact info).
Here are the other BUSU people directly involved with CASA’s activities:
- CASA Campus Coordinator (Campaigns): Kerri Behling & Antonio Sergi, Advocacy Coordinators
- CASA Campus Researcher: Arielle Stockdale, Research & Policy Manager
If you have any questions or ideas, or are interested in learning more and possibly getting involved, email or call Steven Nicholls at firstname.lastname@example.org or 905-688-5550 ext. 4198. One can also visit www.casa-acae.com to stay up-to-date on issues affecting undergraduate, and to read more into our efforts and see how CASA works for you.