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 THE SPEECH FROM THE THRONE

Fredericton, NB- Following the outcome of the November 2 vote of non-confidence, resulting in the fall of the Gallant Liberal government, students in New Brunswick awaited yesterday’s Speech from the Throne to see what the future of postsecondary education may look like under the Higgs Progressive Conservative minority government.

Tuesday’s Speech from the Throne highlighted the importance of building a world class education system and continuing programs that aid in that pursuit by removing barriers and engaging with evidence based solutions.

“In recent years great strides forward have been taken to address the financial barriers that students face when accessing postsecondary education,” said Emily Blue executive director of the NBSA. “The Free Tuition Program and the Tuition Relief for the Middle Class are having a marked and notably positive impact on students from this province.”

In the most recent academic year, 7,744 New Brunswick students received over $17 million in financial aid from these two programs which allowed them to pursue their studies in New Brunswick. In just a few short years, FTP and TRMC have been regarded as exceptionally progressive and effective models of student financial aid in both a national and international context.

This is why students in New Brunswick are hopeful that when a review of this program begins that research completed by the Higher Education Strategy Associates Targeted Free Tuition: A Global Analysis, which contrasted New Brunswick’s targeted free tuition with other jurisdictions and found it to be a world leader, will be taken into consideration. In addition, students sincerely hope that the Higgs government will draw their attention to the long term study that is being completed by the New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training which will provide additional evidence based research on the efficacy of this program over the next five years.

“When discussing the barriers students face while accessing postsecondary education it is important to acknowledge that there are significant non-financial barriers that students face as well, such as the prevalence of sexual violence, the inadequacy of on-campus mental health resources, and the lack of support for Indigenous students,” said Brianna Workman, chair of the NBSA’s board of directors.

Included in yesterday’s Speech from the Throne was the intent to review mental health services in the province to ensure that they are accessible to those who need the support.

Our members are hopeful that the removal of barriers to mental health resources will be extend to those on campus. Between 2012 and 2015 the number of students who have had mental health related academic accommodations requests has increased threefold.

The NBSA has previously advocated for a suite of evidence-driven, technology-based intervention programs alongside our Maritime counterparts in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. These programs would allow for mental health literacy training to be delivered to every student, faculty, and staff member at public universities in New Brunswick, decrease wait times on campus, and increase the effectiveness of counselling sessions. Given the recent progress on this file in both Nova Scotia and P.E.I., the NBSA would like to see the Government of New Brunswick follow suit in addressing one of the most substantive issues facing students today.  

In the Speech from the Throne, a commitment was made to, “Establish a committee to review the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commision to ensure that recommendations with New Brunswick’s jurisdiction are met.” The implementation of these Calls to Action in the postsecondary education sector in New Brunswick would be a step in the right direction towards meaningfully engaging with the Academy’s history of racism, inequality, and exclusivity, which the NBSA firmly supports.

The NBSA looks forward to continuing our advocacy on behalf of New Brunswick postsecondary students in the months to come through  discussion and collaboration with all political parties. The NBSA remains committed to ensuring that New Brunswick students have access to a high-quality, accessible, and affordable postsecondary education experience here in New Brunswick.

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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 releases second edition of The State of Student Affairs in New Brunswick

NBSA releases second edition of The State of Student Affairs in New Brunswick

Fredericton, N.B. — The New Brunswick Student Alliance today released the second edition of 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 Jocelyne Roy Vienneau.

“Her Honour has been very generous to meet with our Alliance during our previous Advocacy Weeks,” said Brianna Workman, the NBSA’s Board Chair. “This report allows us to update Her Honour on the progress we have made and the challenges we have faced in the last year.”

This annual report serves as the Alliance’s response to government actions, the issues facing postsecondary students, and the general wellbeing of the sector in the province. 

“We stand proudly behind our accomplishments, but are eager to continue to overcome the barriers that are still facing current and prospective postsecondary students in New Brunswick,” said NBSA Executive Director Emily Blue. “The State of Student Affairs allows us to ensure that our member’s voice is presented to the public, independent of their institutions and government.”

University presidents have been invited to respond to the report.

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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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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

 

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