All the recommendations submitted by the AMS to the provincial government have been addressed in a consultation report released by the provincial Standing Committee on Finance. The recommendations made hoped to make post-secondary education more affordable for students and addressed operating grants, the U-Pass program and student loans.
In past years, the AMS has seen some of their recommendations included in the reports from the Standing Committee on Finance. Kathleen Simpson, the AMS VP External, attributes this year's particular success to the AMS's coordination with other student associations who are also advocating for more affordable education.
“The AMS recommendations being included in the report signify bipartisan support for our recommendations, as the committee is composed of members from both major provincial parties,” said Simpson in an email statement.
Now that the Committee has released their recommendations, the provincial minister of finance will review it and consider it when creating next year’s provincial budget.
One change recommended by the AMS is an increase in operating grants by the same amount annually as the domestic tuition cap. This is because post-secondary funding from the government has decreased by 14 per cent from 1990 to 2009, while the amount funded by students has increased 11 per cent in the same time period.
The Committee's report mirrors this recommendation by asking for an “increase [in] operating grants to post-secondary institutions to address unfunded cost pressures."
The report also recommends a “move to multi-year allotments for operating grants and deferred maintenance grants to help these institutions with their financial planning.”
The Committee also responded to the AMS's recommendations considering student loans. They recommend that the government “establish a needs-based student grant program that addresses student needs and provides incentives for completion.” The Committee also advises that a review of eligibility requirements for student loans, as well as interest charged on student loans, be conducted.
Finally, the Committee’s 96th recommendation almost mirror's the AMS’s statement and suggests that the provincial government “commit to long-term funding of the U-Pass BC program beyond April 2018.”
This was particularly pushed by the AMS, whose submission noted that a student who uses the U-Pass for a full year saves over $1,500 in comparison to a full-priced, three-zone pass that would allow them the same transit access.
“Ultimately, we are most likely to see successes where the recommendations align with government priorities,” said Simpson. “In the lead-up to the provincial elections, we are looking for government to make a strong and meaningful commitment to students.”