Fredericton, NB- Following the outcome of the November 2 vote of non-confidence, resulting in the fall of the Gallant Liberal government, students in New Brunswick awaited yesterday’s Speech from the Throne to see what the future of postsecondary education may look like under the Higgs Progressive Conservative minority government.

Tuesday’s Speech from the Throne highlighted the importance of building a world class education system and continuing programs that aid in that pursuit by removing barriers and engaging with evidence based solutions.

“In recent years great strides forward have been taken to address the financial barriers that students face when accessing postsecondary education,” said Emily Blue executive director of the NBSA. “The Free Tuition Program and the Tuition Relief for the Middle Class are having a marked and notably positive impact on students from this province.”

In the most recent academic year, 7,744 New Brunswick students received over $17 million in financial aid from these two programs which allowed them to pursue their studies in New Brunswick. In just a few short years, FTP and TRMC have been regarded as exceptionally progressive and effective models of student financial aid in both a national and international context.

This is why students in New Brunswick are hopeful that when a review of this program begins that research completed by the Higher Education Strategy Associates Targeted Free Tuition: A Global Analysis, which contrasted New Brunswick’s targeted free tuition with other jurisdictions and found it to be a world leader, will be taken into consideration. In addition, students sincerely hope that the Higgs government will draw their attention to the long term study that is being completed by the New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training which will provide additional evidence based research on the efficacy of this program over the next five years.

“When discussing the barriers students face while accessing postsecondary education it is important to acknowledge that there are significant non-financial barriers that students face as well, such as the prevalence of sexual violence, the inadequacy of on-campus mental health resources, and the lack of support for Indigenous students,” said Brianna Workman, chair of the NBSA’s board of directors.

Included in yesterday’s Speech from the Throne was the intent to review mental health services in the province to ensure that they are accessible to those who need the support.

Our members are hopeful that the removal of barriers to mental health resources will be extend to those on campus. Between 2012 and 2015 the number of students who have had mental health related academic accommodations requests has increased threefold.

The NBSA has previously advocated for a suite of evidence-driven, technology-based intervention programs alongside our Maritime counterparts in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. These programs would allow for mental health literacy training to be delivered to every student, faculty, and staff member at public universities in New Brunswick, decrease wait times on campus, and increase the effectiveness of counselling sessions. Given the recent progress on this file in both Nova Scotia and P.E.I., the NBSA would like to see the Government of New Brunswick follow suit in addressing one of the most substantive issues facing students today.  

In the Speech from the Throne, a commitment was made to, “Establish a committee to review the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commision to ensure that recommendations with New Brunswick’s jurisdiction are met.” The implementation of these Calls to Action in the postsecondary education sector in New Brunswick would be a step in the right direction towards meaningfully engaging with the Academy’s history of racism, inequality, and exclusivity, which the NBSA firmly supports.

The NBSA looks forward to continuing our advocacy on behalf of New Brunswick postsecondary students in the months to come through  discussion and collaboration with all political parties. The NBSA remains committed to ensuring that New Brunswick students have access to a high-quality, accessible, and affordable postsecondary education experience here in New Brunswick.

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