Student leaders prove lobby effort can be effective

University of Lethbridge students may soon see lower textbook pricing, among many other quality initiatives, thanks to the lobbying efforts of its Students' Union.

Student leaders from across Canada, including former University of Lethbridge Students' Union (ULSU) President Adam Vossepoel, ULSU President Jeremy Girard and former ULSU VP Administration Brodie Pattenden, recently met with political party leaders, members of Parliament, senators and government officials to discuss post-secondary education as part of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations' annual lobby conference in Ottawa.

"We have been incredibly successful in lobbying at three important levels," says Vossepoel, who has played a central role in ULSU lobby efforts for two years. "Federally, we recently secured $2 billion in infrastructure funding; provincially, we've managed to lower interest rates on student loans; and here at the U of L we have gained significant ground in legitimizing the ULSU as an important group on campus and gaining the respect of other members of this organization."

Currently, a focal point in post-secondary advocacy efforts is the high cost of textbooks; the federal government is being pressured to remove the 10 and 15 per cent price premiums from the Book Importation Regulations, a move that could see an immediate $32.5 million in savings annually for Canadian students.

"It's important to us that students know the ULSU is an organization they can rely on to support and advocate for their best interests," says Girard, adding that the likely elimination of price premiums could take effect as soon as 2010-2011.

"It's imperative the ULSU advocates for lowering the cost of academic materials, and saving students money on textbooks is a very real and achievable goal," says Girard. "The number of hours invested in advocacy truly pays off when you see initiatives such as this materializing."

Vossepoel agrees, having seen the system work during his time in office.

"The last two years have been incredibly rewarding in terms of advocacy. I have had the opportunity to see first-hand the tangible results that come from the efforts of many dedicated and motivated individuals," says Vossepoel, adding that he is confident these efforts will continue to improve the quality of post-secondary education for years to come.

"I'm very excited to be stepping into an environment where our advocacy groups are extremely well received by both the provincial and federal governments," says Girard.