By Jake Wray, News Editor
Melanie Mark, BC’s minister of advanced education, met with representatives from various BC post-secondary schools at Douglas College on September 30 and heard their concerns about housing, student debt, and textbook costs.
Mark was at Douglas College to meet the BC Federation of Students (BCFS) executive committee. The BCFS executive committee includes representatives from 14 student unions, including the DSU. A total of ten representatives were present at the meeting with Mark, according to Simka Marshall, a Douglas College student and chair of the BCFS executive committee.
In a phone interview with the Other Press, Marshall said each representative had a chance at the meeting to introduce themselves and discuss their respective unions’ top concerns with the minister.
“We had people talking about student debt, that was something people touched on a lot, and the need for a provincial grants program. People also talked about textbooks. There’s a lot of work being done around the province to bring awareness to the cost of textbooks,” she said. “People also brought up issues like housing issues. It was actually surprising, I think you would be surprised, to have heard about the housing issues not just from the Lower Mainland. There was people from campuses all around the province that were talking about that.”
After hearing the representatives’ comments, Mark said she was open to further discussions with the BCFS, according to Marshall.
“[The minister] said that she’s looking forward to being able to work with us, and she’s grateful to have the opportunity to hear about student issues directly from students,” Marshall said. “It was a good intro-type meeting. She did say that she also felt that this was an important step to building a working relationship together.”
Marshall said Mark’s predecessor, Andrew Wilkinson, who was advanced education minister for the BC Liberal government, never came to meet with the BCFS, and they had a difficult working relationship with him.
“It was a bit challenging, to be honest,” she said. “We felt like [Wilkinson] had a different set of priorities [than we did] for advanced education as far as student debt goes, and things like that.”
The BCFS is looking forward to having more detailed discussions about how to address their concerns about housing, student debt, and textbook costs with Mark, according to Marshall.
“I think being able to have more in-depth dialogue, about really getting into the nitty-gritty of those policies, is where we want to go,” she said.