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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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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Reinvestment of Tuition Rebate Funds Overdue

Fredericton, NB – Post-secondary students in New Brunswick are frustrated with government’s failure to reinvest funds from the New Brunswick Tuition Rebate (NBTR) back into student financial aid, six months after it was announced that the tax credit would be eliminated.

The NBTR, which provided a maximum of $20,000 to graduates who remained and worked in the province, was scrapped in the 2015-16 provincial budget.

At the time, the cut was estimated at $22.4 million.

“The New Brunswick Tuition Rebate was by no means the perfect program, and we understand the rationale for its elimination,” said Lindsay Handren, NBSA Executive Director. “However, to be standing here six months out with no reinvestment of those funds back into financial aid – or clear plan in place to do so – is extremely worrisome.”

“Post-secondary students in New Brunswick face an uphill battle in financing their education, and government inaction will only make it harder.”

New Brunswick students graduating with debt owe an average of $35,200, the highest across all ten provinces. That amount is expected to increase following recent decisions to eliminate the NBTR and to raise the debt cap on the Timely Completion Benefit.

High student debt levels have been linked to slow economic growth and outmigration.

“Once again, we are calling on government to invest in affordable and accessible education,” said Annie Sherry, NBSA Board Chair. “Post-secondary students in New Brunswick represent the future of this province, and reinvesting funds from the New Brunswick Tuition Rebate back into student financial aid represents an obvious step toward protecting that future.”

“We believe those funds would have the greatest impact in the form of up-front, need-based grants. We strongly urge government to invest strategically to ensure that students from all backgrounds are able to pursue a post-secondary degree.”

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