August Executive Blog

Going back to school?

As September nears, some of you may be preparing to go back to school, or know someone that is. While students at AU can start classes at any point, many end up taking the summer off. Maybe you were away on vacation. Or maybe you just needed some time off and it happened to be in the summer. Maybe you’re a visiting student who has the summers off. Whatever the reason, it may be that you, your friends, or your family are starting up classes again this fall.

So what does that mean? Well, getting back to the working and studying mentality may be hard after the summer break – especially since AU students aren’t going anywhere physically to attend a campus. For some, this means sprucing up that home study space. For others, maybe some new supplies are needed and will kick-start that study mindset. Whatever is it, we should try our best to get back in our studying space and to keep on track with our studies. If you have a specific way of getting back to your studies, please share it in the comments below!

So, what have I been up to this summer? Well it has been a quite advocacy-intensive summer. What exactly does that mean?

Primarily, I have been involved in discussions, strategy planning, and policy work on the provincial and federal levels. In July, I attended the Policy and Strategy conference with the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA). At this conference, one of the main things that we accomplished was the approval of our policy themes as priorities for the year. These priorities are:

  1. Health and wellness
  2. Indigenous students
  3. Educational materials
  4. International students
  5. Financial barriers to Post Secondary Education

While these are the top priorities, there are other areas that CASA will focus on as well. There were other items accomplished such as committee work plans completed, and the Board action plan approval.

Why is federal advocacy important?

Since most of us at Athabasca University are Canadian, and we are all attending a Canadian institution, federal advocacy can affect us all. Whether it is student loans, student employment, or access to grants, there is a good chance that you can relate to it. Our advocacy is not for nothing. We have seen some large wins recently, including $131.4MM invested into the Repayment Assistance Plan, $1.53bn invested in the Canada Student Grants Program (increase of 50%), and $395.5MM allocated to the Youth Employment Strategy.

So, being able to devote some time to the pursuit of these priorities are important for all students, not just us at AU.

On the provincial side of things, we had the chance to meet with all the other student leaders from Alberta, and had a session with the Minister of Advanced Education. There was much discussion revolving the current funding and tuition reviews.

One of the hot topics of debate was regarding tax credits. It seems like associations are split about where to stand on this. Some advocate for the removal of tax credits, as it can prevent funding for need-based grants for low to middle income students. On the other hand, there are some students and families that are only able to receive post secondary funding in the form of tax credits, as they do not qualify for either grants nor loans. The type of students this can affect are working students and/or adult learners (as many of us are), international students (who also don’t qualify for many of the grants or loans), and graduate students. While there may be room for improvement on how the funds are allocated, we cannot just take away some of the only funding accessible to many students. This has prompted us to further investigate this topic and continue the discussions.

I hope that everyone enjoyed their summer, and that anyone returning for classes this fall enjoyed their time off. For anyone that was taking some courses throughout the summer, and is continuing through the fall as well, just keep on keeping on. And remember to take a break or vacation from your studies once in a while as it can be beneficial for your mental health!

Julian Teterenko
VP External and Student Affairs