Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance
|Location||Toronto, Ontario, Canada.|
|Established||1992 (incorporated 1995)|
|Vice presidents||Stephen Franchetto (Finance)
Adam Garcia (Administration)
|Members||AMS, BUSU, FedS, MAPS, MSU, TOSA, USC, WLUSU|
The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) is an alliance of university student governments from across Ontario, Canada. Their common objective is to protect the interests of over 140,000 professional and undergraduate, full-time and part-time university students, and to provide research and recommendations to the government on how to improve accessibility, affordability, accountability, and quality of post-secondary education in Ontario.
OUSA has 3 main bodies: General Assembly, Steering Committee, and the Executive. OUSA's General Assembly meets on a semi-annual basis, rotating between member campuses. Each member association is allocated delegates based on proportional representation of about 1 delegate per 3,000 students. The General Assembly sets the macro direction of the organization, and approves all of its policies. The Steering Committee consists of 1 representative from each member association, and meets on a monthly or semi-monthly basis. Each member association designates who will be its representative on the Steering Committee, usually the Vice President University Affairs, Vice President Education, or President of the association. From the Steering Committee, a 3 person executive is elected to be President, VP Administration, and VP Finance. The executive drive the day-to-day operations of OUSA, are in charge of all financials, messaging, and advocacy, while managing the full-time support staff.
Brock University, Queen's University, the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University, and the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students at the University of Toronto are the founding members of the OUSA, which was informally created in 1992. It was formally incorporated in 1995.
Many of these student associations had recently left the Canadian Federation of Students. They argued that the CFS pursued too many social causes at the expense of core student issues, that their demand for zero tuition fees was unrealistic, that their advocacy methods were too radical and that the organization had become dictatorial and staff-heavy.
OUSA's early proposals called for an increase in government funding to universities. More controversially, however, OUSA called for an increase in student tuition fees in exchange for this increase in public funding. At the time OUSA also supported the implementation of an Income-Contingent Loan Repayment Plan. An ICLRP plan would make the rate of repayment of a student's loan dependent on their income. Advocates see these plans as a way to reduce student default rates on their loans and make loan payments affordable, while opponents believe they will be used to justify significant tuition fee increases. The Alliance now opposes income contingent loan programs and tuition fee increases.
Due to some of its proposals, and because two of OUSA's former executive directors were hired by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities after their service with the Alliance (Barry McCartan, Executive Director, 1997–98, and Andrew Boggs, 1998–99), OUSA has faced charges that it is at times too close to the government. Both Boggs and McCartan work in the public service, not political, side of the Ministry and retain their positions regardless of the government in power. Others, however, argue that this indicates that OUSA's more professional, policy-based lobbying style has earned the trust of the government.
OUSA's early success was in 1995, when its advocacy was responsible for the creation of the Ancillary Fee Protocol with government led by New Democratic Party of Ontario with Bob Rae as its leader. This protocol meant increases in ancillary fees must be subject to a referendum, and ended the practise of universities of raising ancillary fees to circumvent the tuition fee controls set by the government.
OUSA was less successful dealing with the right-wing Progressive Conservative government of Mike Harris, which cut funding to universities and significantly raised tuition fee levels at Ontario universities, including a highly controversial "deregulation" of tuition in many professional and graduate programs. Despite dealing with an antagonistic government, OUSA was able to persuade the government to establish the Ontario Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, a permanent advisory board including student and university representation in 1998, and notable improvements to provincial student financial aid (1999, 2000). Over this period, OUSA also brought together the various stake holding groups (including competing student groups, faculty, staff and alumni organizations) in the university sector for the first time. Chaired by then-Executive Director Andrew Boggs, this coalition worked on issues of common interest, including election campaigns and information sharing.
OUSA claimed credit for the four-year freeze in 'real' tuition fee levels announced by then-Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Dianne Cunningham in 2001, along with other provincial higher education advocacy groups. OUSA has had more success dealing with the Liberal government led by Dalton McGuinty, and, with the guidance of then-Executive Director Adam Spence, is credited with a number of the policy proposals included in a report on post-secondary education written by former-premier Bob Rae], particularly his call for grants for low-income students.
Part-time students at the University of Toronto have withdrawn from the Alliance, as did Queen's (from 1995 to 2001) citing concerns over the organization's management in the mid-1990s. Queen's then rejoined the Alliance as an associate member in 2001 and then as a full member in 2004.
Beginning in 2005, under the guidance of Scott Courtice, OUSA began building informal alliances with other 'like minded' provincial groups and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations to lobby the Federal government and the Council of the Federation. This cooperation has resulted in several joint initiatives, including media events and government submissions. When combining the provincial and federal groups together, the "Partnership" becomes the single largest group of post-secondary students in Canada, representing over 600,000 students, eclipsing the Canadian Federation of Students' 500,000.
Recent successes include: $74 million over five years in 2011 to develop a new credit transfer system that makes it easier for students to transfer between institutions, $310 million in additional funding for 20,000 new post-secondary spaces in 2010, $81 million in student financial assistance improvements in 2010, including: six-month interest-free grace period before loan repayment begins, doubling of exemption for income earned during school, 7% increase in OSAP loan maximum, implementation of Repayment Assistance Plan to cap and manage student debt, tying the OSAP maximum assessment for textbook and supply costs to the rate of inflation, successfully lobbied for $150 million investment in university infrastructure in 2009. As is it difficult to qualify, other advocacy groups also claim to have secured this funding for students.
As of May 2011, OUSA welcomed two new members, the Trent in Oshawa Student Association as associate members, and the McMaster Association of Part-Time Students as full members, who have rejoined after a 7 year absence. As of May 2013, the University of Windsor Students' Alliance voted through a referendum to leave the Alliance.
OUSA publishes an annual magazine titled Educated Solutions, which features articles from students, faculty, administration, civil servants, alumni, and other sector stakeholders. It is distributed on all of its member campuses, as well as sent to government officials and partners.Link to most recent edition
OUSA hosts several conferences throughout the year. General timelines are as follows:
- May: Transition Conference
- June: Strategic Planning Conference
- July/August: Student Roundtable Series
- September: Campus Visits & Volunteer Training
- October: Fall General Assembly
- November: Student Advocacy Conference
- February: Spring General Assembly
- March: Partners in Higher Education Dinner
Presidents and Executive Directors
- 1998-1999 Kenzie Campbell
- 1999-2000 Basil Alexander
- 2000-2001 Mark Schaan
- 2001-2002 Erin McCloskey
- 2002-2003 Josh Morgan
- 2003-2004 Jeff LaPorte
- 2004-2005 Alison Forbes
- 2005-2006 Stephanie Murray
- 2006-2007 Paris Meilleur
- 2007-2008 David Simmonds
- 2008-2009 Trevor Mayoh
- 2009-2010 Dan Moulton
- 2010-2011 Meaghan Coker
- 2011-2012 Sean Madden
- 2012-2013 Alysha Li
- 2013-2014 Amir Eftekarpour
- 1994-1996 Michael Burns
- 1997 Rick Marin (Interim)
- 1997-1998 Barry McCartan
- 1998-1999 Andrew Boggs
- 1999-2001 Ryan Parks
- 2001-2002 Bryce Rudyk
- 2002 James Meloche (Interim)
- 2002-2003 Leslie Church
- 2003-2005 Adam Spence
- 2005-2007 Scott Courtice
- 2007-2008 Chris Locke
- 2008-2009 Howie Bender
- 2009-2011 Alexi White
- 2011–2012 Sam Andrey
- 2012-Present: Rylan Kinnon
- Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance
- Twitter Page
- 'Students Concerned About Rising Tuition' Globe & Mail article
- 'Food For Thought Campaign' Toronto Star article
- 'Loans shunned out of ignorance' National Post article
- "OUSA/CFS article in The Varsity