The St. Thomas University Students’ Union released a report showing the results of a student survey as part of its More Than Tuition campaign.
STUSU launched the survey last summer, asking students about their preferred methods of communication, knowledge of STUSU and main advocacy concerns. STUSU based the report on the responses of 267 students.
Julia Evans, STUSU’s vice president of education, said in an interview with The Aquinian that the survey was a productive and effective way to gather student feedback for later advocacy.
“We did [the survey] prior to the planning of the in-person campaign because we wanted to be able to continue on with the campaign in the most effective way possible,” she said.
The report shows that 146 students indicated their primary concern is tuition, followed closely by housing and food security, with 137 students expressing their concerns about the rising cost of living.
Evans said food security specifically has become a growing issue for students.
“When people have all these costs, rent is not negotiable, so where students are making those sacrifices … they’re not able to get the groceries they need,” she said.
Alex Nguyen, president of STUSU, said the union is working with the STU Food Bank to collect more non-perishable food items, but it is advocating more at the provincial level with the help of the New Brunswick Student Association (NBSA).
“[The] NBSA is working on advocacy documents to present to our stakeholders in the upcoming advocacy week,” said Nguyen, adding that STUSU is trying to bring advocacy closer to students through in-person events on campus.
The report also indicated that 56.9 per cent of students are unfamiliar with two of the advocacy organizations STUSU works with — the NBSA and the Canadian Student Alliance (CASA), a national student organization.
Evans said this is a problem for STUSU, as a lot of the union’s advocacy goes through these federal and provincial organizations.
“The information is there, but we want to encourage [students] to seek it out,” she said. “We want to have it as engaging as possible and that’s what we’re going to continue to do throughout the year.”
The next step in the More Than Tuition campaign is collaborating with Atlantic student advocacy organizations, like Students Nova Scotia and the Prince Edward Island Student Union, to create a Maritime-wide campaign.
“We have statistics that reflect the real cost of education in all three [Maritime] provinces,” said Evans.
Evans said the collaboration reflects how these issues are not exclusive to New Brunswick but rather a systemic problem. She hopes a larger number of advocates will push for more policies to tackle students’ concerns.
“I think for the next step, I’ll hone in on the advocacy element,” she said. “We’re really making sure that we’re in conversations with stakeholders … and the government.”