Government Signs MOUs with Universities, Announce Predictable Tuition and Increase to Operating Grants

Fredericton, NB – In an announcement made yesterday evening, the Government of New Brunswick stated that they had officially come to terms with three of the province’s four publicly funded universities to sign Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) through to the 2020-2021 academic year. Central to the MOUs is the implementation of a stable tuition schedule for students studying at the universities, which guarantees predictable tuition rates  for the length of a student’s degree. Under this new agreement, nearly 90% of students studying in New Brunswick will now be covered by the new tuition model.

Since 2015, the New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA) has advocated for the creation of predictable tuition schedules, implemented through MOUs between the universities and Government. This announcement signifies a major step forward in ensuring the financial accessibility of the province’s postsecondary institution in the future.

The MOUs also impose a tuition cap on the universities, but unlike the cap seen in 2014, university operating grants will be increased to meet the loss in revenue. Over the next four years, operating grants will be increased by 5%, with a 1% per year for the first three years followed by 2% in the final year. This should ensure a stable source of revenue for universities without relying on increased tuition rates.

“These agreements represent the culmination of nearly three years of work in ensuring all students that chose to study in New Brunswick have the information they need to financially plan for their education”, said Samuel Titus, Acting Executive Director of the NBSA. “The NBSA is happy to see three of the four universities sign an MOU.”

As of right now, St Thomas University is the only institution to not sign an MOU with the province, citing an unsatisfactory increase in the operating grants as the main reason. The province has claimed that are continuing to work with St Thomas to get them to sign the MOU. “We look forward to seeing St Thomas sign an MOU in the near future”, added Titus.

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Government Signs MOUs with Universities, Announce Predictable Tuition and Increased Operating Grants

Fredericton, NB – In an announcement made yesterday evening, the Government of New Brunswick stated that they had officially come to terms with three of the province’s four publicly funded universities to sign Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) through to the 2020-2021 academic year. Central to the MOUs is the implementation of a stable tuition schedule for students studying at the universities, which guarantees predictable tuition rates  for the length of a student’s degree. Under this new agreement, nearly 90% of students studying in New Brunswick will now be covered by the new tuition model.

Since 2015, the New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA) has advocated for the creation of predictable tuition schedules, implemented through MOUs between the universities and Government. This announcement signifies a major step forward in ensuring the financial accessibility of the province’s postsecondary institution in the future.

The MOUs also impose a tuition cap on the universities, but unlike the cap seen in 2014, university operating grants will be increased to meet the loss in revenue. Over the next four years, operating grants will be increased by 5%, with a 1% per year for the first three years followed by 2% in the final year. This should ensure a stable source of revenue for universities without relying on increased tuition rates.

“These agreements represent the culmination of nearly three years of work in ensuring all students that chose to study in New Brunswick have the information they need to financially plan for their education”, said Samuel Titus, Acting Executive Director of the NBSA. “The NBSA is happy to see three of the four universities sign an MOU.”

As of right now, St Thomas University is the only institution to not sign an MOU with the province, citing an unsatisfactory increase in the operating grants as the main reason. The province has claimed that are continuing to work with St Thomas to get them to sign the MOU. “We look forward to seeing St Thomas sign an MOU in the near future”, added Titus.

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Student Reaction To Budget Mixed

Fredericton, NB – New Brunswick post-secondary students were disappointed to see an operating grant freeze and tuition hike in today’s provincial budget, but remain optimistic about forthcoming consultations surrounding financial aid.

The 2016-17 Budget froze operating grants to universities for the second year in a row and capped tuition increases for New Brunswick students at 2%. No cap was imposed on tuition fees for out-of-province or international students.

“Knowing that significant reductions to university operating grants had been considered, we’re pleased to see government not making those cuts,“ said Lindsay Handren, NBSA Executive Director.

“However, by freezing operating grants and increasing tuition, it is placing more of the financial burden of pursuing a post-secondary education on students.”

New Brunswick ranks eighth out of the ten Canadian provinces in terms of per-student public funding to universities. It ranks fourth in terms of tuition fees.

A commitment to developing a new tuition assistance program in consultation with student groups was also contained within the Budget. Cost presents a significant barrier to access, with New Brunswick students graduating with debt holding the highest average debt in Canada at $35,200.

“Though this budget could have been worse for students, it certainly could have been better,” said Annie Sherry, NBSA Board Chair. “We continue to be concerned about the high debt levels and comparatively low levels of student financial aid here in New Brunswick.”

“We are also concerned about the impact differential tuition for out-of-province students could have on enrolment and on this province’s future labour force.”

The Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission recently observed a one-year decline in enrolment of 5.2% at New Brunswick universities.

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Budget Offers Opportunity To Invest In Students

Fredericton, NB – Post-secondary students in New Brunswick are calling on government to commit to student success by adopting a number of key recommendations in the 2016-17 provincial budget.

Included among the recommendations are the reinvestment of funds from the tuition rebate program, the elimination of harmful income assessments for financial aid, an extension of Medicare to international students, and an increase in experiential learning opportunities.

“2015 was a tough year for post-secondary students in New Brunswick,” said Lindsay Handren, NBSA Executive Director. “Between the elimination of the tuition rebate, raising of the Timely Completion Benefit’s debt-cap, and a university operating grant freeze, students feel as though nothing has gone their way.“

“Now, students are asking government to show that they have not, in fact, been put on a back-burner.”

The four recommendations would see government invest in better financial and social supports for New Brunswick’s post-secondary students – supports that would help to reduce average debt loads, increase enrolment, and better ensure the development of a productive and skilled labour force.

They would also reduce the likelihood of outmigration from the province.

“Post-secondary students in New Brunswick face limited work opportunities, the highest average debt load in the country (for those with debt), and are often forced to choose between employment and financial aid due to a broken student loan system,“ said Annie Sherry, NBSA Board Chair.

“As a result, over 6,200 youth have left New Brunswick in the last five years alone.“

“Government has stated that it wants to create the province’s most job-ready generation. Students want to be that generation, but they will not get there unsupported. We strongly urge government to adopt these recommendations in the upcoming budget and commit to student success.”
Read our pre-budget submission in full here.

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Government Changes Tune On Cuts To Post-Secondary

Fredericton, NB – Post-secondary students in New Brunswick are disappointed to see government changing its tune on potential cuts to post-secondary education, following a media release on savings being considered in the upcoming provincial budget.

The release identified reducing or freezing university operating grants as a way to save between $15 million and $45 million per year.

Previous government communication, including the Choices to Move New Brunswick Forward document released as part of its ongoing Strategic Program Review, identified the development of a new, performance-based funding model for universities as the method being considered to save those funds.

“All year long, students in this province have felt as though government has been pushing their interests aside,“ said Lindsay Handren, NBSA Executive Director. “This new revelation only serves to reinforce that sentiment.”

“Simply reducing or continuing to freeze university operating grants would not be a strategic decision, or a progressive one.“

New Brunswick already ranks eighth out of the ten Canadian provinces in terms of public funding to universities. The 2015-16 provincial budget put a freeze on that funding.

Increasingly insufficient levels of public funding, coupled with decreasing enrolment, has left universities struggling to continue to deliver a high quality education and support services to students. Various programs and staff positions, including counselors, have been cut over the last year as a result.

“Changes do need to be made to the post-secondary education system, and we believe government was correct in its consideration of a new funding formula,” said Katie Davey, NBSA Vice-Chair. “Unfortunately, it now seems to have changed directions entirely in order to take the easy way out.”

“There is tremendous value to be found in New Brunswick’s universities. We strongly urge government to consider that value, and to think twice about making a decision that could bring this system to its knees.”

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