EDMONTON -- The first congress of post-secondary students in Alberta was hosted online to gather stories and share ideas on how to fight against cuts to advanced education in the province.

Student leaders met virtually Saturday to discuss everything from campus safety, racism, provincial government funding cuts, to the state of post-secondary education in the province.

Rowan Ley, Council of Alberta University Students chair, said in an interview with CTV News Edmonton that the need for a student congress emerged out of the successive budget cuts facing advanced education in the province.

“We wanted to bring together every post-secondary student leader from all backgrounds, from all parts of the province,” Ley said.

“We were there to talk about the damage this budget has done to post-secondary education and how we can fight back.”

Ley, also the University of Alberta Students' Union vice president (external), said the conversations were helpful. He added that all the organizers agreed that the congress should be an annual occurrence in the future.

“This was meant to be an experiment or a trial run. So it was a little smaller in scale but we absolutely intend for this to grow,” he said. “We know that the student voice is strongest when we are all working together.”

In a statement to CTV News Edmonton, Minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides did not directly address the congress or its calls of reversing cuts to the post-secondary sector.

Nicolaides said the government recognizes the importance of post-secondary institutions.

“However, Alberta post-secondary institutions receive higher taxpayer funding than comparator institutions across Canada,” the minister said in the statement.

“I am confident we can support a high-quality post-secondary system in a more efficient manner.”

Neither the province’s finance minister nor advanced education minister were invited to the congress.