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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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.

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Student organisations release joint publication on mental health

Fredericton, NB — Student organizations across the country today released a joint publication on student mental health, titled, Shared Perspectives.

The publication includes contributions from the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS), the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), the New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA), and Students Nova Scotia (SNS), and was produced with the support of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA).

“We are proud to have coordinated this project with our partners,” said NBSA Board Chair Sara Camus. “Mental health is a huge priority for us and access to relevant services on campus remains a challenge for many of our members.”

The publication sheds light on the limited successes and continued challenges facing students across the country with regard to increased access to mental health-related services on campus by featuring case studies from each of the participating provinces.

“Students cannot continue to drive the mental health conversations on campuses without the financial and institutional support by government and the postsecondary sector,” said Robert Burroughs, the NBSA’s executive director. “Failing to ensure the mental health of our youth will be devastating on New Brunswick’s economy and communities across this province and country.”

The NBSA has called on the New Brunswick government to increase spending in mental health by 1 percent per year over the next 5 years to meet the Canadian Mental Health Association’s recommended national level of spending at 9 percent.

Shared Perspectives is the first time that all five organizations have formally collaborated, representing almost 300,000 postsecondary student voices through this publication.

Design by Edward Wojciechowski
Translation by Julien Pitre

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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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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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Post-Secondary Students Outline Priorities for 2015-16

Fredericton, NB – Post-secondary students in New Brunswick are looking forward to presenting their ideas for a better post-secondary education system to government, university administrators, and faculty following the release of ‘Post-Secondary Education – Strategic Investments for a Better New Brunswick’.

Student leaders from four university campuses across the province will hold meetings in Fredericton next week as part of the New Brunswick Student Alliance’s annual Advocacy Week.

The recently released document will inform those meetings.

“The recommendations outlined in this document represent what New Brunswick’s post-secondary students believe to be strategic investments for their government,“ said Lindsay Handren, NBSA Executive Director.

“They offer a means of getting the province’s youth, its institutions, and ultimately its labour force back on track.”

The document touches on a number of topics including financial aid, international student support, experiential learning, and the public funding of New Brunswick’s post-secondary institutions. It offers eight recommendations to government.

Included among those recommendations are the reallocation of funds from the scrapped Tuition Rebate into needs-based grants and a reversal of the controversial decision to increase the debt-cap on the Timely Completion Benefit.

“Making strategic investments in the post-secondary education system now will be key to New Brunswick’s success in the long-term,” said Annie Sherry, NBSA Board Chair. “With over 60% of job openings in the next decade expected to require a post-secondary education, ensuring that students have access to a high-quality education and the right social supports has never been more important.”

“We all want a strong and productive provincial economy. To get there, there is no investment more strategic than an investment in our youth.”

Read our new advocacy document in full here.

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