NBSA announces dates for 2016 Advocacy Week

Fredericton, NB – Student leaders from across the province will be headed to the Legislative Assembly in November to discuss how New Brunswick can leverage the wealth of knowledge and potential human capital of our postsecondary (PSE) sector to build a stronger, more prosperous society.

The New Brunswick Student Alliance will be hosting its fourth annual Advocacy Week in Fredericton from November 7-10, 2016 as part of its pre-budget activities.

“Our organisation remains committed to ensuring that we have an accessible, affordable, and high-equality PSE sector in this province,” said Travis Daley, chair of the NBSA. “By and large, our politicians are committed to student issues. We look forward to engaging with legislators and decision makers of all political parties and function.”

MLAs, university presidents, faculty members, and senior civil servants received official invitations to Advocacy Week this week.

Chief among the NBSA’s priorities is the implementation of a sliding scale, or step function, to the Tuition Access Bursary before the next academic year. A sliding scale would increase the threshold for participation in the TAB program to include some of those who do not currently qualify.

“The policy behind the TAB addresses the necessity for the skills to navigate a knowledge-based economy. The program, however, needs improvements, the biggest of which is that sliding scale. Increasing access is fundamental to helping grow our economy. As such, we believe the introduction of the sliding scale would be the kind of sound economic policy that this province needs,” said Robert Burroughs, the NBSA’s executive director.

Students will also be asking the government to make changes to other programs such as the Timely Completion Benefit, while recommending strategic investments in mental health, international student healthcare, and experiential education.

“When the premier came to our campuses last month, he admitted the government had to make difficult choices in this budget,” Daley said. “We understand that money is tight, but we hope that his government makes the right choices for students because student outcomes are economic outcomes. An investment in our youth is always a smart investment.”

The organization will be releasing a detailed document at the end of the month identifying its specific recommendations to the government.

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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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Economic Impact Assessment Highlights Value of Universities

Fredericton, NB – An economic impact assessment released by the University of New Brunswick (UNB) has students in the province applauding its recognition of the return on taxpayers’ investment in the post-secondary education system.

The study, which highlighted the positive economic impact of UNB, was undertaken by the university in collaboration with Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI). It found that UNB and its students generated $1.2 billion in added income for the New Brunswick economy in 2013-14, or about 4.5% of the province’s total gross provincial product.

The money was the result of various investments including student spending, start-up companies, and alumni impact.

“The positive economic impact generated by the University of New Brunswick cannot be overstated,“ said Lindsay Handren, NBSA Executive Director. “$1.2 billion is not a small number. Taxpayers’ investment in the post-secondary education system – and primarily, in its students – is generating an extremely positive return.“

While this particular assessment applied only to UNB, similar results could be expected of all four New Brunswick universities. Anticipated cuts to university operating grants in the 2016-17 provincial budget could significantly reduce universities’ overall economic impact as programs, positions, and student supports are eliminated.

New Brunswick currently ranks eighth in Canada in terms of public funding to universities. The 2015-16 provincial budget put a freeze on that funding.

“The University of New Brunswick’s economic impact assessment is further proof of the value of our post-secondary education system,“ said Katie Davey, NBSA Vice-Chair.

“Students and alumni are contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to the provincial economy; an economy that is in trouble. We hope that government will recognize the value of New Brunswick’s universities in preparing the upcoming budget, and that it will support our universities by way of increased operating grants.”

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