By Scott Zielsdorf
The students’ association at NAIT (NAITSA) will remain largely unchanged despite recent school budget cuts. As the school and students association are two separate organizations NAITSA has its own budget and will operate as normal.
NAITSA President, Karen Velasco, says their main concern with budget cuts is the increased cost to students.
“We’re not really directly affected by the NAIT budget cuts, but our constituents are – like our student body. So they might be affected by potential services that might be cut,” said Velasco.
During the period of uncertainty revolving around budget cuts; NAITSA is focusing more on the role of advocating for students during various budget-related discussions. Their primary concern is to avoid the removal of necessary student services.
Velasco explained that student executives are involved in many of the discussions revolving around NAIT’s budget cuts.
“We are actually advocating on behalf of all students in Alberta…In regards to NAIT they are proposing two new mandatory non-instructional fees, so we are being consulted on that as well. I think that’s our role, and we also want to ensure that any services they are potentially going to cut will not be the core services,” said Velasco.
Mandatory non-instructional fees (MNIF) are separate fees added on top of tuition fees. As the name suggests, they cover things not related to instruction at school.
Earlier in February the topic of a new MNIF came up in NAITSA’s student senate. It has now been released that there are not one, but two new fees being proposed by NAIT.
The two new fees being proposed are a Technology Fee and Student Support Fee. Both fees represent services that may require additional funding after budget cuts.
The government of Alberta has given student associations of post-secondary schools the power to approve or deny any new MNIFs being proposed to them. The Executive Council of NAITSA is the deciding party when it comes to approving any new fees for students, but it would likely go to the senate of elected student representatives as a whole for further discussion.
NAITSA executives like President Velasco are also involved with discussions beyond the scope of NAIT’s budget. Velasco explains that NAITSA is part of a student lobby group known as the Alberta Student’s Executive Council (ASEC) which currently represents the interests of 15 post-secondary schools across Alberta. The goal is to be involved in talks with the provincial government to have a voice in school budget decisions.
“We have been working really hard with the minister [of education] to have a seat at the table, as a matter of fact his principal advisor…actually set up meetings with the student associations to ask for student feedback,” said Velasco.
Velasco believes it is important for students to be informed of what their student association is doing. She encourages NAIT students to reach out to their student representatives, both on the executive council and student senate, if they want more information regarding NAITSA’s activities and decisions.