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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Legislature playing dangerous games with TAB

Fredericton, NB – New Brunswick post-secondary students are concerned at the procedural tactics being employed in the Legislature and their potentially devastating impacts on accessibility to public universities and colleges.

The implementation legislation for the Tuition Access Bursary, a government program announced in April to alleviate some of the financial burden of post-secondary education for New Brunswick’s lower-income families, is on the order paper for the current legislative sitting.

“The successful passage of this bill will pave the way for unprecedented access to our post-secondary sector by members of our community who might otherwise have not considered university or college,” said Robert Burroughs, NBSA Executive Director.

The NBSA has long advocated for the reinvestment of public funds into up-front, needs-based grants for post-secondary students. It has been working with the government to ensure that the expected expansion of the Tuition Access Bursary program addresses previously-identified problems and increases accessibility to the post-secondary sector for as many New Brunswick citizens as possible.

“However, what we are seeing in the Legislature this week is indeed troubling for students. The actions of our political leaders on all sides suggest that they are comfortable playing games with the fates of young people across this province, particularly those who would benefit most from financial support,” Burroughs lamented.

“This is part of a larger discussion that we will need to have in this province this year on the sustainability of the post-secondary sector,” said Travis Daley, NBSA Board Chair.

“That politicians of all parties are already so willing to employ these kinds of tactics on such important post-secondary legislation concerns us. We expect that they will, over the course of the coming year, have serious debates about the financial future of post-secondary education in New Brunswick. The consequences of these debates will likely be wide-reaching in their impact.”

“This is hardly acceptable behaviour from our elected officials.”

The Tuition Access Bursary is expected to take effect this September, in time for the start of the new academic year.

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