The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization composed of student associations from across the country which advocates to the federal government on behalf of post-secondary students.

At its core, CASA advocates for an accessible, affordable, and high-quality post-secondary education system for Canada. Representing over 250,000 students from undergraduate, graduate, and polytechnic associations, it is one of the country’s largest post-secondary advocacy organizations.

Student union executives from CASA’s member schools act as the representatives for their membership, bringing forward the voices of their students to help set the direction of the organization. By attending conferences and actively participating in CASA’s committees and initiatives, student union executives bring forward the issues being experienced by students on their campuses to have these issues advocated on at the federal level.

Each year, the UPEI Student Union hosts consultations with students in order to get a better idea of the problems that students are facing. That information is then taken to CASA and compared with the experiences of students at other schools.

Different priority theme areas are selected based on the main issues that are identified in these conversations amongst schools. These priority themes then become the main focus of the organization for the year. You can find more info about CASA’s priority themes for the 2017-2018 school year on the UPEISU website.

In using its student-focused and student-driven approach to advocacy, CASA is able to identify patterns amongst the issues being experienced on campuses across Canada, which in turn allows the organization to get to the root of these problems and advocate for real solutions.

These advocacy efforts can take the form of awareness campaigns, policy development and research, government relations, and the development of partnerships with various stakeholders.

You may be wondering how exactly CASA relates to you as a UPEI student member. CASA’s federal advocacy efforts are funded by its membership fees, which includes UPEI. You may have noticed a line in your student statements for a $2 fee to the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations. Every full-time student at UPEI pays this small fee to help fund our involvement in the organization.

Maybe you’re wondering “but what does CASA actually DO for me? Where’s the benefit?” With its consistent and calculated approach to advocacy, CASA has built a strong reputation as an expert in post-secondary public policy. As such, the Canadian government and other important stakeholders take CASA’s recommendations very seriously and, because they see the value in CASA’s evidence-based approach to public policy, have implemented a number of their recommendations over the years.

For example, after CASA advocated on the issue for many years, the Canadian government announced in budget 2016 that it is investing $1.53 billion over five years in order to increase student grant dispersal for low-income, middle-income, and part-time students. This means that, based on their need, 338,000 students will receive more aid to help them access post-secondary education.

CASA was also thrilled to see its recommendations implemented when funding was increased by $90 million to support First Nations and Inuit students through the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSP). With wins like these, CASA continues moving Canada towards more accessible and affordable post-secondary education for all.

In being members of CASA, students at UPEI gain a voice on the federal stage and become an active part of this movement for a better post-secondary experience. For the price of a coffee, each student helps fund CASA’s efforts to influence public policy and bring change to students’ lives. Pretty cool, eh?
By Taya Nabuurs and Scott Douglas Jacobsen