University of Calgary students were served eggs with a side of awareness on Thurs., Nov. 15 in the MacEwan Student Centre East Courtyard.
The Free Student Loan Breakfast idea was a province-wide initiative by the Council of Alberta University Students aiming to illustrate deficiencies in current funding amounts from the Alberta Student Loan Program. At present, the province allocates a mere $170 a month for food, approximately $1.75 per meal.
"What we are trying to illustrate is the amount of food you can actually get for the money provided," explained Students' Union Vice-President External and CAUS Chair Oliver Bladek. "$170 a month can't buy what the Canada Food Guide says students should be consuming per day."
The response to the breakfast was positive with over 300 students in attendance. Each person was given a green "funny money" bill worth $1.75 to spend on their meal with items such as eggs, pancakes, sausage and juice ranging between $0.50 and $0.75. While the concept for the breakfast was well-received, students who have actually lived on the loan allocations said they generally get less for their buck.
"It's a funny concept," said first-year residence dweller and loan recipient Jude Hoppenbrouwers. "It's idealistic because juice alone costs $2.00 at the Dining Centre, but I think it's a great way of raising awareness that there is a problem."
"I've lived on student loans," added SU VP Academic Nic Porco. "Really, you need a part-time job to supplement the income, and that takes away time from actually being a student."
The student loan program was the top priority on the CAUS agenda currently lobbying provincial MLAs from Nov. 19-22 in Edmonton. Bladek explained the current lobbying is an attempt to alter government thinking about the amount of funding for students, which in a time of spending cuts will be no easy task.
"We can't go in being loud and abrasive because we've learned from past encounters that the government doesn't respond well to that kind of behaviour," said Bladek. "We have to work with them and not against them to get change."