Real solutions made once again
By Mark Brown
This week the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations will announce its Second Declaration of Real Solutions, just in time for a national stakeholders meeting on student aid.
The declaration will be based on the input CASA, a national student lobby group, received from its member schools at its general meeting in Ottawa at the end of November.
Hoops Harrison, national director of CASA, said the declaration represents the association's position on a number of different issues. "It's been laced with a healthy dose of realism and pragmatism so that these polices could be implemented."
He added this year's declaration will be more extensive than last year's Real Solutions. Unlike the last set of proposals, this year's will not focus as much on financial issues, Harrison said.
Representatives of CASA will present the declaration to Members of Parliament this Thursday and Friday when CASA, as well as other groups, meet in Ottawa for the second national stakeholders meeting.
Nick Iozzo, VP-education for the University Students' Council, who are members of CASA, said 13 of the 15 proposals outlined in the last declaration were incorporated into last year's federal budget.
While it is too early to say if this year's declaration will be as successful as last year's, Iozzo said he was optimistic because the government is looking for input. "We know these people will be doing reviews and changes so we know they are going to be considered and heard."
One of the issues focused on in Real Solutions is the issue of changes to the Canada student loan program, since the contract the government has with banks expires at the end of next year, Iozzo said. He added other issues CASA will raise at the meeting include the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation and the Bankruptcy Act.
The Canadian Federation of Students, another national student lobby group, will also be present at this week's meeting. One of the main concerns CFS wants to address are questions about the role banks should play in the student loan program, said Liz Carlyle, national chair for CFS.
"The banks have a lot of power in determining who gets student loans," she said, referring to the current push by the banks in Nova Scotia to de-designate some schools with high default rates from receiving student loans.
Carlyle was particularly concerned about the de-designation of private schools since they are currently not represented by any lobby group. "For a lot of the people going to private colleges, this is their last chance at post secondary education.
"They are just trying to get an education, but they are getting ripped off in the process."
Andrew Boggs, executive director of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, was also concerned about the possibility of de-designating some schools. "It's coming up as a discussion topic," he said. "It is telling that they are bringing it up period."
While Boggs has not received the agenda for this week's meeting, he said one of the main issues he hopes to discuss is regional sensitivities.