Happy 2016! We hope that everyone's holiday season gave them a chance to recharge. We at OUSA are looking forward to an exciting and jam-packed second semester filled with all of OUSA's staples: campaigns (coming up next week!), advocacy, policy, and student knowledge-sharing.
We capped off last semester with LobbyCon, one of our most exciting advocacy initiatives. At the beginning of December, leaders from each of OUSA's schools participated in our annual advocacy conference, where we met with dozens of MPPs, Cabinet Ministers, and high-ranking civil servants to discuss several pressing student issues. This year our three advocacy priorities closely mirrored OUSA's annual goals, which we believe will allow us to make significant headway on these ideas. The first objective revolved around the upcoming tuition framework, where the government will assess how students factor in to the sector's funding. In response we advocated for the elimination of "tuition and education" tax credits, and for the savings to fund both a provincially-mandated tuition freeze, as well as an expansion of financial aid such as OSAP and the Ontario Tuition Grant. Second, OUSA advocated for a student-centred funding formula, which would prioritize envelope funding, learning quality, and better accountability for the Strategic Mandate Agreements. Lastly, we discussed provincial investment into further work-integrated learning opportunities, as we recognize the large benefit these opportunities can have on students both during and after their undergraduate careers.
Overall, to me the event illuminated the true power of OUSA's advocacy. Often when students discuss advocacy it's from a distance, and in an abstract sense, as many don't have the opportunity to sit down with policymakers and make change. Yet by being part of a dozen meetings in the span of four days, I could see the impact our discussions would have at Queen's Park. It was incredibly satisfying to see the progress we made during that week, and our follow-up conversations with stakeholders will ensure these changes are considered moving forward. Moreover, it was also humbling to hear praise of OUSA's continued excellence, leadership, and advocacy approach from many of our partners during meetings. This feedback reaffirmed my pride in representing OUSA and the thousands of students who attend university every day. Rest assured we are working for you, and will continue to do so for the betterment of the post-secondary sector.
Lastly, OUSA is preparing for its upcoming tuition campaign next week. Appropriately titled "Time Out Tuition", this campaign will make the case that society needs a fully funded tuition freeze in the next tuition framework. We believe this will return the system to a publicly-funded over publicly-assisted one, which is an important principle for a sustainable and fair post-secondary sector. We are excited to distribute swag, information, and include students in the advocacy we do on this topic. We want you to participate- contribute thoughts and support for a tuition freeze by tweeting out the hashtag #timeoutON.
With that, let's kick off 2016! There is a lot to be excited about- let's get started.