NEW BRUNSWICK STUDENT ASSOCIATIONS COLLECTIVELY DENOUNCE THE CHANGES MADE TO STUDENT FINANCIAL AID

FREDERICTON – The New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA),  La Fédération des étudiantes et des étudiants du Campus universitaire de Moncton (FÉÉCUM), l’Association générale des étudiantes et des étudiants de l’Université de Moncton, campus d’Edmundston (AGÉÉUMCE), and l’Association étudiante de l’Université de Moncton, Campus de Shippagan (AÉUMCS) are jointly calling upon the Minister of Post-Secondary Education to reconsider his decisions with regard to the cuts made to student financial aid on April 9.

The announcement made last Tuesday imposes a limit on the amount that can be awarded through the Renewed Tuition Bursary (RTB) program. This new amount is far below the average cost of tuition for public institutions and colleges in New Brunswick. The most vulnerable students in the province will be significantly impacted by this change.

“The inclusion of students from private institutions into the RTB program, without increasing the student financial aid envelope accordingly, reduces the amount of funding available to students who need it the most,” said Brianna Workman, chair of the NBSA’s board of directors.  “As a result, these regressive changes will have a devastating impact New Brunswick’s most vulnerable and marginalised students.”

In addition, the NBSA, FÉÉCUM, AGÉÉUMCE, and AÉUMCS reject the inclusion of private institutions in the new RTB program.

“Private institutions are in no way held accountable to the government for their academic programs, their tuition or fee structures, or their recruitment and hiring practices. There are known examples of some of these institutions justifying partaking in discriminatory practices, particularly on the basis of religious beliefs.” continued Emma Miller, vice-chair of the NBSA’s board of directors.

The Timely Completion Benefit was also eliminated during last week’s announcement in order to allow the government to reintroduce the Tuition Tax Credit. The NBSA and FÉÉCUM have already made their perspective on tax credits very clear – they are ineffective measures that fail to increase accessibility of postsecondary education,  reduce student debt, and retain graduates in the province.

That is why we urge the Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Trevor Holder, to revisit the recently announced decisions. At the very least, the government should consider reinvesting funds into the Timely Completion Benefit or another debt relief program and increase the available maximum grants to ensure that students from low-income families are able to maintain their targeted, free tuition. Finally, government should  also abandon the idea of tax credits, as these types of programs have traditionally disproportionately benefited students from the wealthiest families and the funds used for this program would be much more effectively used by investing increased upfront, needs-based grants.

L’AGÉÉUMCE, l’AÉUMCS et la FÉÉCUM represents students at Université de Moncton.

The New Brunswick Student Alliance represents over 12,000 students from student associations from public anglophone universities (University of New Brunswick – Fredericton and Saint John, St Thomas University, and Mount Allison University).

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For information or interviews:

Emily Blue | Executive Director
902-940-3681 | director@nbsa-aenb.ca | http://www.nbsa-aenb.ca
New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA)

Pierre Losier | Directeur général
506-381-7936 | dg@feecum.ca | http://www.feecum.ca
Fédération des étudiantes et des étudiants du Campus universitaire de Moncton (FÉÉCUM)

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It’s #NOTFAIRATALL


On April 9th the Government of New Brunswick announced devastating changes to the student financial aid program in the province.


These changes include:

  • Replacing the Free Tuition Program and Tuition Relief for the Middle Class with the Renewed Tuition Bursary program. This resulted in the lowering the maximum grant low and middle-income students are eligible for from $10,000 to $3,000, which ensures no students will receive free tuition.
  • Eliminating the Timely Completion Benefit which is the only debt relief program available to NB graduates
  • Reintroducing the Tuition Tax Credit

WHY WE ARE CONCERNED

  • In 2017/2018, 6,319 low-income students across the province were able to attend postsecondary by having their tuition fully covered through an upfront, non-repayable grant. With these changes, all these students are now left unsure of the amount of assistance they will receive and consequently if they will financially be able to begin or continue their postsecondary studies.
  • In 2014, Statistics Canada reported New Brunswick’s postsecondary graduates as having the highest average student debt in the country at $35,200, compared to the national average of $22,300.
  • The Timely Completion Benefit was the only debt relief program in New Brunswick and with its removal, the many students with above-average student debt in the province now have nowhere to turn for relief.
  • Research has consistently shown that carrying heavier loads of debt leads to slow economic growth and outmigration, both issues which New Brunswick is already struggling to combat.

Voice your concern by emailing the Minister of Postsecondary Education. Click the button below to be brought to a prepared email, sign your name, and share your concern.



Using Gmail? Just copy and paste the emails and our letter.

trevor.holder@gnb.ca, guy.arseneault@gnb.ca, robert.mckee@gnb.ca, kris.austin@gnb.ca, david.coon@gnb.ca, megan.mitton@gnb.ca, advocacy@nbsa-aenb.ca

Dear Minister Holder,

As your constituent, I am writing to you today to ask for action to help the many postsecondary students across New Brunswick who will be negatively affected by the recently announced changes to New Brunswick student financial assistance. 

I have compiled a few points to help illustrate the urgency of this issue:
In 2017/2018, 6,319 low-income students across the province were able to attend postsecondary by having their tuition fully covered through an upfront, non-repayable grant. With these changes, all these students are now left unsure of the amount of assistance they will receive and consequently, if they will financially be able to begin or continue their postsecondary studies. 

  • In 2014, Statistics Canada reported New Brunswick’s postsecondary graduates as having the highest average student debt in the country at $35,200, compared to the national average of $22,300. 
  • The Timely Completion Benefit was the only debt relief program in New Brunswick and with its removal, the many students with above-average student debt in the province now have nowhere to turn for relief. 
  • Research has consistently shown that carrying heavier loads of debt leads to slow economic growth and outmigration, both issues which New Brunswick is already struggling to combat. 

As these points show, the changes made to student financial assistance are going to have real, immediate, and devastating impacts on students in New Brunswick. 

The newly announced Renewed Tuition Bursary (RTB) program is meant to replace the existing Free Tuition Program (FTP) and Tuition Relief for the Middle Class (TMRC) suite and the elimination of TCB comes with no plans to introduce any other means of debt relief for students in the province.  

Under RTB, students will now receive a maximum provincial grant of $3,000 for university students or $1,500 for college students, based upon their family size and income. This is a substantial cut to the previous thresholds where university students were eligible for provincial grants up to $10,000 and up to $5,000 for college students. Bringing the maximum provincial thresholds down so substantially ensures that even a student from the poorest family in the province, who qualifies for the maximum grant from both the provincial and the federal governments, will still not receive enough financial support to cover their tuition. 

In addition, failing to provide New Brunswick students with any means of debt relief while simultaneously cutting the upfront assistance that the most vulnerable and marginalised students receive, is both dangerous and irresponsible to the future of our province. This ensures that New Brunswick graduates will continue to carry heavy debt loads, which will hinder their ability to contribute to the economy after graduation and may also result in them leaving the province.

Since the government began their review of the FTP and TRMC earlier this year, student organisations, universities, and faculty associations have continued to support the maintenance of FTP and TRMC in their previous form and rejected the idea of reintroducing tuition tax credits at the cost of these programs. 

As a result, these changes are not only regressive policy measures which are sure to have devastating impacts on students in the province, but they also demonstrate a complete failure of the current government to listen to students in a conversation that is fundamentally about their education and experience.

As your constituent, I’m asking for your support in calling upon the government to do the following: 

  • Reverse the changes made to student financial assistance to revert back to the former Free Tuition Program and Tuition Relief for the Middle Class suite, with the maximum grants set at $10,000 for university students and $5,000 for college students. 
  • Repurpose the funds from the former Timely Completion Benefit to establish a new debt relief program to support New Brunswick’s postsecondary graduates. 
  • At minimum, to grandfather current students utilizing the Free Tuition Program and Tuition Relief for the Middle Class suite, as well as the Timely Completion Benefit, to enable them to complete their education with their expected financial assistance and debt relief. 

Sincerely,

A Concerned Student

Uncategorized

Students reject changes to student financial aid

Fredericton, N.B. – The NBSA firmly opposes all changes announced to student financial assistance yesterday by the Government of New Brunswick. These changes include plans to introduce a Renewed Tuition Bursary (RTB) and to eliminate the Timely Completion Benefit (TCB).  

The RTB program is meant to replace the existing Free Tuition Program (FTP) and Tuition Relief for the Middle Class (TMRC) suite and the elimination of TCB comes with no plans to introduce any other means of debt relief for students in the province.  

“Despite the government’s misleading messaging of these changes being an ‘extension’ to the FTP and TRMC programs, the newly announced RTB effectively ends the provision of free tuition to students from low-income families,” said Brianna Workman, chair of the NBSA’s board of directors. “As a result, these regressive changes will have a devastating impact New Brunswick’s most vulnerable and marginalised students.” 

Students will now receive a maximum provincial grant of $3,000 for university students or $1,500 for college students, based upon their family size and income. This is a substantial cut to the previous thresholds where university students were eligible for provincial grants up to $10,000 and up to $5,000 for college students.

Under the RTB program, eligible full-time students attending both public and private institutions will have access. The government contends that the new inclusion of private institutions makes student financial aid “fairer.”

Private institutions receive 20 per cent more government financial support per student than students attending public institutions and these students receive almost three times as much funding through the New Brunswick Bursary than students at public universities. 

“In addition to the fact that because private institutions are not held to, and do not meet the same standards of accountability and quality of education that public universities are expected to, we reject the inclusion of private institutions in RTB,” said Emma Miller, vice-chair of the NBSA’s board of directors. “Especially where the inclusion of these institutions has come at a cost to students coming from the poorest families in the province, it is extremely difficult to see how these changes make student financial assistance ‘fairer’ in any way.” 

In addition, the Timely Completion Benefit, the only debt relief program available in the province, has been eliminated and will not be replaced with another program. Where New Brunswick students carry the highest average level of debt in Canada at an average of $35,200, eliminating this program with no plans to provide New Brunswick graduates with any support with their debt is irresponsible and extremely disappointing. 

“The cuts made to the upfront assistance through grants, paired with the elimination of TCB will certainly result in higher levels of student debt,” said Emily Blue, executive director of the NBSA. “High debt levels are linked with slow economic growth and outmigration and in a province who struggles to retain its youth, the elimination of TCB is highly concerning.”

In addition, the Tuition Tax Credit will be reintroduced for students, and families, to claim when they file their taxes in 2020. Research consistently has shown that educational tax credits tend to disproportionately benefit higher-income households and high-income earners. 

“Tax credits are in no way a replacement debt relief program and have been proven to do nothing to increase access to postsecondary for those who struggle financially,” said Workman. “For a government that speaks about the need for evidence-based policy and a world-class education system, the reintroduction of the tax credit and the negative changes to financial aid is contrary to this government’s asserted goals and a step backward for the province.”  

In January 2019, the Government of New Brunswick asked key stakeholders to submit responses to questions regarding the effectiveness of the FTP and TRMC programs, versus programs that were previously used, such as the Tuition Rebate Program and Tuition Tax Credits. 

The responses submitted by student organisations, universities, and faculty all supported the maintenance of FTP and TRMC and rejected the idea of reintroducing tuition tax credits. Research being completed by the New Brunswick Institute of Research, Data, and Training has, in its first stages, found that FTP and TRMC were working in their mandate to increase access to postsecondary education. 

As a result, these changes are not only regressive policy measures which are sure to have devastating impacts on students in the province, but they also demonstrate a complete failure of the Higgs government to listen to students in a conversation that is fundamentally about their education and experience.

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Uncategorized

Maritime students respond to concerning cuts to financial aid, institutional funding, and impacts to campus life by Ontario government

Fredericton, NB- Yesterday, the Ontario government announced sweeping changes to tuition, financial aid, and mandatory fees. These changes include cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) grants, a reduction in domestic tuition by 10 per cent, and the elimination of “non-essential, non-tuition fees.”

As an organisation which exists to advocate for greater affordability, accessibility, quality, and the increased role of student’s voice, this announcement is alarming in several respects.

Under the new changes to OSAP, grants will predominantly be provided to students whose income is less than $50,000, with a reduction in grant size. 

“For students from low and middle-income families, this means that they will be expected to pay more out of pocket, which will be significantly burdensome due to the cut of the 6 month OSAP interest-free repayment grace period,” said Emily Blue executive director of the NBSA. 

New Brunswick’s targeted free tuition programs were modeled after OSAP. Our programs, the Free Tuition Program and Tuition Relief for the Middle Class provided support to 7,744 New Brunswick students in the most recent academic year (2017-2018). These programs have helped to reduce the financial barriers to accessing postsecondary education. 

The announcement also highlighted tuition reduction for domestic students by 10 per cent. This reduction will result in annual decreased institutional revenue by $450-500 million, or roughly 3 to 4 per cent of total revenue. 

The elimination of “non-essential non-tuition” fees is also certain to have negative impacts on student life in Ontario. Students could lose access to clubs, societies, beneficial programs, scholarships, valuable experiential learning, and campus employment opportunities. 

“These changes will greatly hinder the student voice and student representation at the institutional level and all levels of government, diminishing the overall post-secondary student experience in Ontario,” said Brianna Workman, chair of the NBSA board of directors.

The New Brunswick Student Alliance is joining StudentsNS and the University of Prince Edward Island Student Union to stand in solidarity with the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and the College Student Alliance in urging the Ontario Government to consider the detrimental impacts of these decisions. 

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STUDENTS RESPOND TO SPEECH FROM THE THRONE

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.  

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NBSA Applauds the Establishment of the Student Experiential Learning Fund and Additional Investments in Experiential Learning

Fredericton, N.B. 一 In an announcement made this morning in Moncton, the Minister of Postsecondary Education, Roger Melanson, announced $5 million in targeted funding for experiential learning which will be available to all postsecondary students beginning this fall.

The New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA) applauds this crucial investment that allows for increased experiential learning opportunities for postsecondary students in the province, especially as experiential learning becomes an increasingly essential part of a students’ academic experience and post-graduation transition into the workforce. This announcement comes after several years of work by the NBSA in collaboration with the province’s Experiential Learning Steering Committee. Since 2016, the NBSA has ensured that the student voice and student perspective were accounted for with the Committee in an effort to bolster the postsecondary sector.

More recently, the NBSA also spent considerable time advocating for the implementation of such a program in its 2017 Advocacy Document, Mandating a Better New Brunswick.

“We are delighted to see that the NBSA’s recommendation for the creation of an experiential learning fund has been accepted and will be put in place this coming fall,” said Brianna Workman, Chair of the NBSA’s Board of Directors. “This fund will allow more students to access these necessary opportunities while still in study, thus providing them with essential training outside of the classroom”. The NBSA has long advocated that in order to improve the academic experience for students in New Brunswick, serious efforts are needed to support students in fields of study that traditionally lack experience learning components.

In addition to the Student Experiential Learning Fund (SELF), the $5 million investment per year also allocates funding for Indigenous students to seek work experience outside of traditional educational and internship opportunities, as well as funds for bursaries for those students in nursing, education, and nutrition to cover the cost of mandatory work-placements.

“Overall, today’s announcement will provide New Brunswick students with the opportunity for experiential learning regardless of their field of study,” said Emily Blue, Executive Director of the NBSA. “These opportunities will provide students  with a competitive edge as they join the workforce upon graduation.”

For instance, recent data has shown that access to a paid internship or work placement can have an overwhelmingly positive impact on a student’s chance of employment after graduation. Two thirds of students who have access to a paid internship during their studies acquire gainful employment less than five years after graduation. As a result of today’s announcement, more New Brunswick students will be paid for their work while also gaining valuable experience in their field.

“The opportunities created as a result of this investment are fantastic opportunities for students to take advantage of,” said Simal Qureshi board director with the NBSA. “This will play a big part in ensuring that New Brunswick graduates develop necessary on-the-job skills by linking their academic experience with tangible workplace experience. This will certainly have an  impact on graduate unemployment and underemployment.”

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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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