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.

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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.”

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NBSA disappointed at government election dates decision

Fredericton, NB — Postsecondary students in the province are disappointed at the New Brunswick government’s decision not to accept the Electoral Reform Commission’s recommendation to move the election dates. The Commission proposes moving the election date from the fourth Monday in September to the third Monday in October, primarily to allow more postsecondary students in New Brunswick to participate in provincial election.

“In addition to being disappointed, we are also rather perplexed,” said Travis Daley, chair of the NBSA’s board. “An October election date would have allowed student unions to build civic engagement and education into our welcome week schedules and could have allowed a more comprehensive election preparation in the public school system, certainly where there might be more first time voters.”

In its testimony to the Electoral Reform Commission in January, the New Brunswick Student Alliance stressed the importance of making New Brunswick’s electoral process more accessible for students at the secondary and postsecondary levels.

“The government has repeatedly spoken about accessibility as a key pillar of its education plans yet is choosing not to make these elections accessible to students,” said the NBSA’s executive director, Robert Burroughs. “At a time when this province is struggling to engage young people and keep them here, it beggars belief that the government would seek to disenfranchise them, despite the advice of an independent commission.”

Burroughs further rejects the notion that moving the election dates in 2018 would be ‘unfair’, stating that, “All parties would still be able to prepare on equal footing to a scheduled election. We urge the government to change its mind on this.”

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NBSA accepts integral role in SEED program

Fredericton, NB – Postsecondary students in New Brunswick are pleased with the recent changes to the Student Employment Experience Development (SEED) program announced last Friday.

The NBSA has been engaged with the PETL team responsible for the SEED program since the Fall and recommended improvements to the program. Almost all were adopted and have been implemented for the 2017 season.

“Changes, particularly to the marketing and communication of the voucher program, were necessary and we are delighted that the Department was willing to take student and stakeholder concerns on board and make welcomed improvements,” added Robert Burroughs, executive director. “The Minister’s commitment to keeping SEED a student-focused employment program is also greatly appreciated.”

Proposed in these changes include a draw for student vouchers. NBSA staff will serve as third-party validators to certify the independence of the draw.

“We are pleased to have a strong working relationship with the civil servants at PETL,” said Travis Daley, NBSA Board Chair, “and will be working with them over the coming weeks to flesh out the NBSA’s role as a validator and how we can help our membership better understand the voucher process.”

Effective immediate, the NBSA will also voluntarily exempt itself as an employer in the SEED program and its Board Directors will henceforth recuse themselves as voucher recipients for as long as the NBSA is involved in the validation process.

Students can apply for the SEED program through NBjobs.ca here.

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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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