Students propose reforms to tackle systemic barriers

Fredericton, NB – Students in New Brunswick are proposing reforms to tackle systemic barriers in the postsecondary sector in the New Brunswick Student Alliance’s latest advocacy document, “Mandating a Better New Brunswick”.

The document, released this morning, identifies pressing student issues for 2017-2018 and will inform student-led advocacy efforts this week.

Student leaders from the NBSA’s five member campuses campuses across the province will hold meetings with MLAs, university presidents, senior civil servants, and key stakeholders in Fredericton between November 6 – 10 as part of the NBSA’s fifth annual Advocacy Week.

“We are strongly encouraged by the Speech from the Throne and the government’s renewed commitment to actioning consequential change to our education system,” said Sara Camus, chair of the NBSA’s Board. “We anticipate with pleasing expectation that government will adopt our proposals.”

Chief among the NBSA’s priorities is necessary funding to improve mental health outcomes for postsecondary students.

“The government could not have been clearer in its Throne Speech that evidence-driven, technology-based intervention programs like the ones we are supporting are key to its mandate. We look forward to their support and investment in the wellbeing of New Brunswick’s postsecondary students,” said Robert Burroughs, the NBSA’s executive director.

The document also recommends that the government make strategic investments in other elements critical to New Brunswick’s economic prosperity, such as a new Experiential Learning Fund to offer tailored work-integrated opportunities for postsecondary students, and in much-needed trauma-informed sexual violence support services on campus. The NBSA is also again urging government to take an active role in responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action by supporting and participating in decolonization processes.

“We understand that we are proposing a variety of student issues, some less traditionally-recognised than others,” Burroughs said.

“However, we continue to stress that education remains the smartest investment for government and that investment in the future of our human resources should be at the heart of the Gallant ministry’s commitment to making New Brunswick healthier and stronger. Students are willing and ready to play a part in our province’s transformation, but they cannot do it alone; they demand and deserve better and more action by their universities and by their government.”

A full copy of “Mandating a Better New Brunswick” is available online in English and French.

Translation by Julien Pitre
Design by Edward Wojciechowski

 

Press Releases

Maritime students call for government funding on student mental health

Fredericton, NB — Student organisations in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island are calling on their respective governments to fund innovative mental health intervention programs to improve the mental fitness and wellbeing of postsecondary students in the Maritimes.

In August, the New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA) and Students Nova Scotia (StudentsNS) released a national joint publication on the state of student mental health along with partners in Ontario and Alberta. The report highlighted the unmet needs of postsecondary students with regard to mental health support services on campus.

“It was important for us to establish a cross-country review of the current state of mental health,” said Sara Camus, chair of the NBSA’s Board of Directors. “Our publication noted that the status quo in New Brunswick is contributing to poor mental health outcomes in the province.”

In New Brunswick from 2012 to 2015, the number of postsecondary students requesting disability accommodation for mental health-related problems and illnesses increased threefold. By 2015, mental health was the most prevalent reason students from the NBSA’s Member Unions visited on-campus physicians. Average waitlists for mental health-related services at the province’s universities range on average from 2 to 6 weeks, and can grow up to 6 months long on some campuses during the academic year.

“Premier Gallant recently reiterated his government’s commitment to improving mental health outcomes. The investments we are proposing would significantly and quantifiably achieve these results,” said Robert Burroughs, NBSA executive director.

The NBSA, StudentsNS, and the UPEI Student Union are seeking an combined $700,000 from their respective governments for a suite of technology-based solutions already endorsed by the 16 public universities in Atlantic Canada.

Together, the suite of programs would improve four different areas known to impact student mental health outcomes: mental health literacy, peer support, professional counselling, and service delivery using e-mental health technologies. The suite includes online peer support and professional telephone counselling, 24/7, 365 days-a-year. The utility and efficacy of these programs are evidence-based and the NBSA, StudentsNS, and the UPEISU expect that they will be transformative to the mental health landscape for postsecondary students. In particular, the implementation of these diverse services will tackle one of the largest issues facing postsecondary counselling centres — waitlists.

“The government could not have been clearer in its Throne Speech that programs like these are key to its mandate. We look forward to their support and investment in the wellbeing of New Brunswick’s postsecondary students,” Burroughs added.

Press Releases

NBSA releases report on State of Student Affairs in New Brunswick

Fredericton, NBThe New Brunswick Student Alliance today released The State of Student Affairs in New Brunswick. The report, an analysis of the province’s  public postsecondary sector, takes the form of a public letter to the Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick, the Honourable Jocelyn Roy Vienneau.

“Her Honour was generous in granting our Alliance an audience last November during our annual Advocacy Week. During that time, we promise an update of our progress and accepted some challenges from her,” said Sara Camus, the NBSA’s Board Chair. “This is our response.”

The report also serves as the first edition of a yearly publication from the Alliance in response to government actions, such as funding allocation through the Budget and Main Estimates processes, and the general wellbeing of the postsecondary sector.

“We have an obligation to our members to provide them with a voice to the public, independent of their institutions and the government. The State of Student Affairs in New Brunswick does that,” added NBSA executive director Robert Burroughs. “We are taking the narrative back into our own hands and telling our own story.”

University presidents have been invited to respond to the report.

Press Releases

Students concerned with latest graduate employment outcomes

Fredericton, NB — The New Brunswick Student Alliance is concerned by the latest employment outcome figures on the graduating Class of 2014.

The figures, released last week by the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission indicate declines over the past decade in full-time employment and median earnings (in constant dollars) for postsecondary graduates in New Brunswick.

“This represents a very real problem for the province’s ability to retain young people,” said NBSA Board Chair Sara Camus. “An educated, well-paid workforce is the future of New Brunswick and our graduates need to be adequately supported to stay in the province after their studies.”

The drop in the number of recent graduates working in jobs requiring university education or management indicates another worrying trend: the underemployment of young people across the Maritimes.

“Underemployment is a very real issue for recent graduates,” noted Robert Burroughs, NBSA executive director. “Add to that high debt levels and declining wages, and we have the makings of a demographic disaster for New Brunswick.”

The NBSA has previously urged government to address high debt levels — 50 percent higher than the national average — of graduates in New Brunswick by making necessary changes to programs such as the Timely Completion Benefit (TCB). The TCB, a debt relief program, was last modified in 2015 by imposing a higher debt-cap on students.

Burroughs added, “Student loan debt reduction is a component of the government’s Economic Growth Plan and should be: high debt levels are linked with slow economic growth and outmigration. Yet, two years on and the TCB remains unchanged.”

Press Releases

NBSA welcomes key changes to student financial assistance

Fredericton, NB — Postsecondary students across New Brunswick are celebrating changes made to student financial assistance programs in the province. Today, the government announced the introduction of the Tuition Relief for the Middle Class (TRMC) program, an extension of the existing Free Tuition Program (FTP).

“We have been pushing the government for almost a year now to include a progressive income threshold for their upfront grants program,” said Robert Burroughs, executive director of the New Brunswick Student Alliance. “The announcement today is a fundamental step to increasing both accessibility and affordability for students.”

The government also announced that it will be extending provincial healthcare coverage to international students, effective September 2017.

“This is fantastic news for international students in this province,” said Fernanda Damiani, board director of the NBSA and president of the St Thomas University Students’ Union. “This is the result of three years of hard work by the NBSA and we are delighted that the government is recognizing the value of international students in New Brunswick.”

Roughly 12% of university students in New Brunswick are international and contribute to almost $200 million to the provincial GDP. New Brunswick will join Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador in offering medicare coverage to its international students.

“This finally puts New Brunswick on a level playing field when it comes to international recruitment,” said Burroughs, “and will play a big part in supporting the retention and post-graduation transition of these students.”

More information on the thresholds for the TRMC is available here.

More information on the student financial assistance programs through the Government of New Brunswick is available here.

Press Releases

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.

Uncategorized