Fredericton, NB – Following the outcome of the September 24th provincial election, students in New Brunswick awaited yesterday’s Speech from the Throne to see what the future of postsecondary education may look like in the current minority government situation. Tuesday’s Speech from the Throne included indications of some potentially positive commitments and developments for New Brunswick postsecondary education students.
First, as various parties discussed throughout their campaigns, the current government would like to eliminate provincial interest on student loans. With nearly three-quarters of New Brunswick students currently relying on student financial aid to support their education students will feel the benefit of the elimination of interests on the provincial portion of student loans.
“This is program will help students reduce some of the debt that they face upon graduation,” said Emily Blue, executive director of the NBSA. “However, in order to most effectively relieve debt for New Brunswick’s postsecondary students, the NBSA still hopes to see the introduction of a more impactful debt relief program which would support students’ in debt relief in the ways the current Timely Completion Benefit has failed.”
Also included in yesterday’s Speech from the Throne was the intent to, “continue to expand mental health services across the province.”
Our members are hopeful that this expansion of services will be seen specifically on their campuses. As the need for mental health supports for students continues to grow it has become clear that institutions lack the resources, staff, and funding necessary to meet the needs of our membership. The average waitlist to see mental health services on our member campuses range on average from two to six weeks and can grow up to six months long on some campuses during the academic year.
“During the debates and forums we held during the election there was unanimous support that the mental health of students needs to be taken seriously,” said Brianna Workman, chair of the NBSA board of directors. “We hope this means that there will be an investment in a suite of technology-based intervention programs which will provide the support to students that is difficult to access on campus.”
The NBSA has previously advocated for and still hopes to see government fund a suite of evidence-driven, technology-based intervention programs. These programs would together improve four different areas known to impact student mental health outcomes: Mental health literacy, peer support, professional counseling, and service delivery using e-mental health technologies.
An additional important aspect of the Speech to the Throne was an indication to increase efforts to address the 94 Calls to Action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The NBSA firmly supports the implementation of these recommendations and looks forward to continuing to work alongside university administrations and government to the implement these Calls to Action in the postsecondary sector in New Brunswick.
Finally, the speech also indicated a desire to increase support for the Youth Employment Fund by doubling the placements provided through this program.
The NBSA looks forward to continuing to work with all political parties collaboratively in the current minority government situation. The NBSA remains committed to ensuring that the concerns of our members are brought to the forefront of provincial discussions as we work towards an accessible, affordable and high-quality postsecondary experience here in New Brunswick.