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Immediate GSS Services and Events Changes

In light of the announcement that UBC classes will be moving online as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak the GSS has made the following decisions.

• All upcoming events, classes, and room bookings have been cancelled until further notice. This includes the Annual General Meeting on Thursday.

• Full refunds will be provided when applicable.

• The GSS offices in Thea Koerner House will be closed, but the Society will continue to work. GSS Executives and staff will be working remotely and can be contacted by email.

• Advocacy / Peer Support services will continue to operate normally, with student appointments being conducted online to minimize risk. If you wish to access our Peer Support Services, email advocacy@gss.ubc.ca

We encourage all students to keep up to date with UBC’s latest guidance on the issue: https://www.ubc.ca/campus-notifications/, and to minimize their risks by following the Province’s public health guidance.

The GSS is working closely with the Faculty of Graduate Studies to minimize the impact that the COVID-19 outbreak may have on Graduate Students. Please continue to follow the instructions given by UBC, and contact our Peer Support Services if you have concerns about being unfairly disadvantaged by the outbreak.

If you have concerns regarding your appointment as a Teaching Assistant, you should direct those to the TA Union, CUPE 2278, and contact either advocate@cupe2278.ca or president@cupe2278.ca

GSS endorses BCFS’s ‘Knock Out Interest on Student Loans!’ Campaign

Sara Hosseinirad VP External

The GSS is excited to announce our endorsement of the current ‘Knock Out Interest on Student Loans!’ campaign being running by the British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS). We’re formally joining the list of organizations that have publicly declared their support for this campaign, including SFSS and UBC AMS.

First off, what is this campaign? And who is BCFS?

BCFS is a provincial advocacy alliance of universities and colleges from across B.C. They work to provide post-secondary student with a unified voice to influence access to education, operating at both provincial and federal levels. They’ve had some major victories in their campaigns, including their work to eliminate interest on B.C. student loans (which was successfully passed last year). Now they’re taking on eliminating interest on federal student loans in their ‘Knock Out Interest on Student Loans!’ campaign.

For the average Canadian student graduating from an undergraduate degree, they’re typically looking at $5,000 in interest on top of their federal loans. Interest on federal student loans has been shown to unfairly penalize low and middle-income students, making this a system that unfairly punishes those who can’t pay up front. Eliminating interest on these federal loans will help graduates focus less on debt and more on their career and lives. The GSS believes in accessible and affordable education, and we hope to see this campaign succeed.

So, what does our endorsement mean for GSS members?

Domestic graduate students often come to UBC with student loan debt from their undergrad. Despite the fact interest rates stall when individuals re-enter school, when these students finally finish graduate education they’re left with this accumulating expense from their undergrad. This is an additional burden and barrier to students looking to start their lives post-grad.

GSS VP External Relations, Sara Hosseinirad, says: “As always, we at the GSS will continue working and advocating for affordable education. Since this campaign is run by BCFS, they will be taking the lead on the advocacy and campaign work. The GSS will be supporting them by hosting local activities to raise awareness and support for ‘Knock Out Interest on Student Loans!’. If you want to have your own voice heard on this issue, any grad student can also sign the open  letter individually.”

OPEN LETTER

Knockout Interest

Open Letter on the Changes to the MSP for International Students

This has been an advocacy priority for my Office over the last few months. The change to the MSP, which eliminates fees for Permanent Residents and Citizens came into force at the start of this year, but the same changes increased the fee for international students to $75 per month. This is a significant additional financial burden for international students, particularly for those with dependents.

The GSS were also extremely concerned about the decision to increase health care coverage fees for international students, without meaningful consultation with student associations, advocacy groups, or international students themselves.

We’ve been working with ABCS and student groups across the Province to create the open letter and to make these concerns clear to Provincial Government. We hope that the Province take notice of the strength of feeling, but even if this does not lead to immediate change, we will continue to fight for a policy that is fair to international students.

We’re delighted to join more than 180,000 students from 10 student associations across the province as signatories of an open letter to The Honourable Adrian Dix, Minister of Health regarding increased MSP fees impacting international students.

You can read the full letter here: bcstudents.ca/news   but the key recommendation is that the BC Government: “commit to fairness on our campuses and either revert the changes made to international student contributions to the Medical Services Plan, or eliminate international student contributions to the Medical Services Plan altogether”. We’re very grateful to the Alliance of BC Students for coordinating the response.