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.

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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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Students propose comprehensive PSE reforms

Fredericton, NB – Students in New Brunswick are proposing comprehensive reforms to the postsecondary sector in the New Brunswick Student Alliance’s latest advocacy document, “Postsecondary: the Pathway to Prosperity”.

The document, released this morning, identifies pressing student issues for 2016-2017 and will inform student-led advocacy efforts this week.

Student leaders from the NBSA’s four member campuses and two observing partner campuses across the province will hold meetings in Fredericton between November 7 – 10 as part of the NBSA’s annual Advocacy Week.

Meetings with MLAs, university presidents, senior civil servants, and key stakeholders have already been scheduled.

“We are encouraged by the Speech from the Throne and the government’s public commitment to actioning consequential change to our education system,” said Travis Daley, chair of the NBSA’s Board. “We anticipate that the government will be onboard with most if not all of our recommendations this year.”

Chief among the NBSA’s priorities is the implementation a sliding scale for the Tuition Access Bursary.

“We have said before that the TAB was a solid first step, but that improvements are needed. We believe that the introduction of a sliding scale would be the kind of sound, progressive economic policy that this province needs,” said Robert Burroughs, the NBSA’s executive director.

The document also recommends that the government make changes to other financial assistance programs such as the Timely Completion Benefit, while urging strategic investments in mental health, international student healthcare, and experiential learning. The NBSA is also urging them to take an active role in responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action to increase postsecondary access for Indigenous students in New Brunswick.

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

“However, postsecondary education is at the heart of economic success and community prosperity. Investments in our human capital are fundamental to any economic growth plan for this province. This necessitates a whole-of-government approach to postsecondary policy and our recommendations offer a holistic, comprehensive response to the challenges our province faces.”

A full copy of “Postsecondary: the Pathway to Prosperity” is available online in English & French.
Translation: Julien Pitre
Design: Edward Wojciechowski

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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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Students reject inclusion of private institutions in TAB

Fredericton, NB – Students at New Brunswick’s public postsecondary (PSE) institutions are calling on the Government of New Brunswick and the Minister of Postsecondary Education, Training, and Labour (PETL) to avoid including private colleges and universities in the Tuition Access Bursary (TAB).

Students attending private institutions already receive on average 20 percent more government financial support per student than students attending public institutions. Additionally, students attending private institutions receive almost three times as much funding through the New Brunswick Bursary than students at public universities.

“It is shocking that the minister would even consider including these institutions in the TAB funding package. The premier has refused to publicly commit to students that he will guarantee the implementation of a sliding scale, yet the government is toying with the idea of masking business subsidies as education policy. Even with a much-needed significant overhaul of the legislation that governs these institutions, we reject the notion that they should be included if they do not meet the same standards as our public schools,” said Tina Oh, vice-chair of the New Brunswick Student Alliance.

Since the TAB program was announced this April, the NBSA has been working with PETL to improve information flow to students and has been adamant in its call for the implementation of a sliding scale before the 2017-2018 academic year.

“Our sector is chronically underfunded as it is and we have not received any commitment to increase PSE funding. Spreading the existing monies to institutions that do not meet the same quality standards and government accountability would limit, not boost, access to our sector,” said Robert Burroughs, the NBSA’s executive director.

“The government has a duty to hold educational institutions accountable to standards that serve students well. The idea that they might be willing to compromise that in order to appease political criticism is concerning. The public PSE sector is working hard to help develop an educated and healthy population here in New Brunswick, but the government needs to be committed to that idea also.”

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Students call for changes to Timely Completion Benefit

Fredericton, NB – In response to the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission time-to-degree study released yesterday, students across the province are calling upon the government to expand the Timely Completion Benefit (TCB) to reflect new evidence.

The MPHEC’s study revealed that students take an average of 4.8 years to complete a postsecondary degree, and an average of 5.6 years if they transfer to another university and switch field of study.

“This study confirms what we’ve been saying for a year now: the TCB needs work. The current structure of the TCB program is outdated and now clearly does not reflect the reality of the academic experience of our students,” explained Sam Titus, director on the NBSA’s Board.

The TCB program forgives government student loan debt above $32,000 if students complete their degrees in four (4) years. Previously, the debt-cap had been limited to $26,000.

Robert Burroughs, NBSA executive director, said, “If the government is serious about reducing student loan debt, as they claimed in the economic growth plan, then they have to change the qualifying requirements of the TCB.”

Previous studies conducted by the MPHEC noted that only a third of students in New Brunswick complete their degree in the allotted time.

“The government should change the TCB prerequisite to a five (5) year completion scale and add the option of applying to a sixth year under special conditions. Not only does such a move encourage students to pursue their academic interests, but it would enable the TCB to truly be a progressive and evidence-based policy.

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Students see positives in growth plan

Fredericton, NB – New Brunswick students are welcoming the inclusion of postsecondary-specific action items in the government’s recently-released Economic Growth Plan.

Indicated in the plan are the government’s intention to:

  • expand the experiential learning opportunities at the postsecondary level in the province;
  • reduce student loan debt, and;
  • significantly expanding the capacity of the province’s institutions to attract and recruit out-of-province and international students.

“The growing impact of our postsecondary sector to drive economic growth in the province is increasingly evident,” said Robert Burroughs, executive director of the NBSA. “It is encouraging to see the government include these vital strategic foci in the plan, particularly debt reduction.”

Upwards of 70 percent of jobs created in the next seven years are expected to be in occupations that require a postsecondary degree.

However, students graduating with debt in New Brunswick owe an average of $35,200, the highest in Canada and well above the national average of $22,300. Such high debt levels have been linked to slow economic growth and outmigration.

“For years now, we have been calling on the government to take this debt issue seriously. The introduction of the TAB was a good first step. That said, we expect, now that [loan debt reduction] is included in the economic plan, to see the government make the necessary financial investments with new monies to support this action item,” Burroughs added.

Students also support the inclusion of experiential learning in the plan. “The value of experiential learning cannot be understated,” said Katie Beers, director on the NBSA’s Board. “Our hope with this action item and the Provincial Task Force is that we can establish a new framework for experiential learning in New Brunswick.”

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