UPEI Student Union to present 'real cost' of post-secondary education to government

The UPEI Student Union is working on their first white paper, an extensive research project, to present to the government that outlines policy priorities.

A white paper is being put together that will address policy issues and potential solutions

The UPEI student union has come up with some solutions to student issues, like using online sources instead of textbooks to reduce costs. (Stephanie Brown/CBC)

The UPEI Student Union is working on its first white paper, an extensive research project, to present to the government that outlines its policy priorities.

At the student union's annual general meeting on Wednesday night, VP Academic and External Johnathan Rix outlined the plan to put together a white paper.

"The white paper is a pretty extensive research project that the UPEI student union has been working on that will address the real cost of post-secondary education whether that be forgone income, tuition, textbook costs, living costs, and providing policy solutions to all those problems."

Student-driven policy

Rix said the student union has been communicating with government in previous years, but showcasing the information this way is significant.

"We have been approaching government and trying to have a very professional front in representing student voices and I think the ability to produce a white paper, this fairly extensive research project, just goes one step further to the capability that students have to produce something of a larger nature."

Johnathan Rix will be presenting the first white paper to the government early next year. (Stephanie Brown/CBC News)

Rix explained these issues were brought forward by students. There are annual policy consultations with students where students can brainstorm and voice their ideas.

Textbook cost is high

Rix said online sources could be used instead of textbooks in cases like introductory courses, when the information can be quite general.

"Textbook costs are drastically increasing, they have been for some time now," he explained. "If you're in first year science, you're probably paying somewhere upwards of $900 for your textbooks. It depends on which program you're in, but at the end of the day students are paying a lot for textbooks and open educational resources, using the internet that we have is a way to reduce that cost."

Johnathan Rix says online resources should be used to reduce the costs of textbooks. (Stephanie Brown/CBC News)

Other policy priorities outlined in the white paper are creating more co-op and intern opportunities for students, which Rix said would give work experience and help students pay for their education.

Rix also mentioned the need for more needs-based grants to make sure people who need money the most are receiving enough.

Still some work before it's ready

Rix said most of the research is done, but they will still look at comparing things like domestic student data versus international student data, and financial projections of costs.

He hopes to present the data to Workforce and Advanced Learning Minister Richard Brown and his staff, as well as have it available to students, in January.

"Obviously when you're doing advocacy, when you're advocating for a group of people, it's a long game. We understand that not everything's going to be done right now."

Rix said the student union wants the government to be aware of these issues, and will work with the government regularly to make sure they are addressed.