Advocacy Initiatives

Below is an overview of some of our recent advocacy initiatives – both in progress and some recent successes. We are working hard to make life as an Athabasca University student just a little bit easier, and to ensure your voice is heard at every level of government and within Athabasca University itself. If you have any questions, please contact [email protected].

Check out our October 2020 podcast episode for an update on AUSU’s advocacy work to the Alberta Government from President Natasha Donahue and VP External and Student Affairs Stacey Hutchings.

Some highlights of our current advocacy work include bringing student perspectives to AU regarding the switch to e-texts and cost-savings sharing, more government funding for AU, a part-time student financial aid program, better access to awards, supports for students with disabilities, a new Indigenous Student Representation Committee, affordability for tuition and fees, and much more!


Working with Athabasca University

We are always looking for ways that Athabasca University can improve the student experience. We meet quarterly with a wide variety of stakeholders in the campus community as well as represent students on various university committees all with the goal of bringing the student perspective to issues.

This is especially true during a global pandemic that has had such a large impact on our students. We have heard from students concerns around the availability of in-person testing, response times from Athabasca University, and the challenges at being a student during this difficult time. We have brought these concerns to Athabasca University and various levels of government and have seen improvements in government funding to students, an Athabasca University bursary for affected students this summer, and commitments to improving communication with students.

We also want to work to reduce the financial barriers many of our students face, such as advocating to Athabasca University for lower costs associated with taking exams or for those students studying from outside Alberta.

Federal Advocacy

AUSU is a proud member of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), and actively brings the concerns of distance education students to the Government of Canada. The federal government is responsible for a significant amount of student financial aid that goes to Canadian students, as well as establishes national priorities around areas like open educational resources, mental health funding, and university infrastructure projects.

AUSU executives are meeting virtually with decision makers across the country to look at issues facing students during the pandemic. Specifically AUSU and CASA are looking for:

  • Expanding access to trade re-skilling;
  • Reducing mental health barriers for Indigenous post-secondary students;
  • Streamlining the ability for international students to work in Canada;
  • Improving access to affordable childcare; and
  • Increasing the Canadian Research Granting Agencies student scholarship funding.

You can also view CASA’s pre-budget submission here (PDF) and visit casa-acae.com to learn more about CASA.

Provincial Advocacy

Whether you’re studying in Beaumont, Alberta or Beaumont, Newfoundland, it is the Government of Alberta that sets the rules around tuition and fees at Athabasca University, as well as determines how much government funding AU has access to. That all has a direct impact on the quality of our education and the barriers to getting into your courses.

The Alberta Government is currently working on an Alberta 2030: Building Skills for Jobs” post-secondary review report that will shape the future of post-secondary education.

Since Athabasca University is an Alberta institution, changes made to the Alberta post-secondary system impact all AU students, no matter where they study from.

After participating in the review process, AUSU has made a series of recommendations for the Government of Alberta that will make the post-secondary system more affordable, more efficient, and higher quality for all Athabasca University students, specifically asking for the Government to:

  • Address and rebalance funding inequalities between individual institutions;
  • Prioritize digital infrastructure;
  • Ensure post-secondary education is accessible to under-represented groups, such as Indigenous students, students from rural areas, and students with accessibility issues;
  • Use online distance education for creating work-integrated learning opportunities;
  • Reinstate the Summer Temporary Employment Program;
  • Recognize the needs of mature students, part-time students, students with accessibility issues, and students with dependents in the student financial aid system; and
  • Create grants to encourage completion of post-secondary programs;
  • Keep students and students’ unions at the centre of decision-making at institutions.

You can view AUSU’s full submission to the Government of Alberta here (PDF).

Position policy manual

You can download the AUSU Position Policy Manual online here, which outlines all of our positions on various political issues that matter to Athabasca University students. Feel free to contact us to talk about these positions at [email protected].

Successes

The list below is just some recent successes AUSU has had as a result of our advocacy efforts, but there are many other smaller victories that were achieved as well. AUSU is always working hard to get more accomplished for AU students.

  • Establishing the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) for students during the pandemic, and postponing all student loan payments over the summer of 2020;
  • Getting the Government of Alberta to reduce the impact of a second round of cuts to Athabasca University due to our historic place as the lowest funded university in Alberta;
  • Delaying the implementation of performance based funding in Alberta for a year, which could put in jeopardy some government funding to Athabasca University;
  • Reducing the interest rate on Canada Student Loans and making loans interest-free six months after graduation;
  • Increasing spending by $816 million by the Government of Canada for financial aid to Canadian indigenous students;
  • Extending the tuition freeze for Alberta university students and tying all future increases for Alberta students to inflation;
  • Arguing to reduce the cost of out-of-province tuition increases at Athabasca University, which saw a planned increase of 4% lowered to 2.6%;
  • Securing $645,000 for mental health initiatives at Athabasca University from the Government of Alberta;
  • Fighting for Athabasca University students in the development of the Coates Report, which led to $4.9 million in funding for improving Athabasca University’s IT resources;
  • Advocating for students regarding retroactive changes to the AU Nursing program, which made it much harder for existing students to graduate, which led to a policy review by AU.