Students concerned with latest graduate employment outcomes

Fredericton, NB — The New Brunswick Student Alliance is concerned by the latest employment outcome figures on the graduating Class of 2014.

The figures, released last week by the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission indicate declines over the past decade in full-time employment and median earnings (in constant dollars) for postsecondary graduates in New Brunswick.

“This represents a very real problem for the province’s ability to retain young people,” said NBSA Board Chair Sara Camus. “An educated, well-paid workforce is the future of New Brunswick and our graduates need to be adequately supported to stay in the province after their studies.”

The drop in the number of recent graduates working in jobs requiring university education or management indicates another worrying trend: the underemployment of young people across the Maritimes.

“Underemployment is a very real issue for recent graduates,” noted Robert Burroughs, NBSA executive director. “Add to that high debt levels and declining wages, and we have the makings of a demographic disaster for New Brunswick.”

The NBSA has previously urged government to address high debt levels — 50 percent higher than the national average — of graduates in New Brunswick by making necessary changes to programs such as the Timely Completion Benefit (TCB). The TCB, a debt relief program, was last modified in 2015 by imposing a higher debt-cap on students.

Burroughs added, “Student loan debt reduction is a component of the government’s Economic Growth Plan and should be: high debt levels are linked with slow economic growth and outmigration. Yet, two years on and the TCB remains unchanged.”

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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 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 Applaud Historic Improvements to Financial Aid

Fredericton, NB – Post-secondary students in New Brunswick are applauding today’s unveiling of the Tuition Access Bursary, which will make university more accessible and affordable for many.

The new bursary will fill the gap between federal grants and the amount owing on tuition for every New Brunswick student with a gross household income of $60,000 or less attending one of the province’s post-secondary institutions – effectively making tuition free.

A reinvestment into financial aid was first announced in the 2016-17 provincial budget. Student groups including the New Brunswick Student Alliance have since been consulting with government on the bursary’s design.

“The financial barriers to post-secondary education are real, and in New Brunswick in particular, they are tremendous,” said Lindsay Handren, NBSA Executive Director.

“By directing resources to the students who need it most when they need it most, government is dramatically improving financial aid and increasing access. The Tuition Access Bursary is designed to help low- and middle-income New Brunswickers pursue the dream of a post-secondary education.”

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.

In addition to discouraging some youth from enrolling, high debt levels have been linked to slow economic growth and outmigration.

The NBSA has long been advocating for a reinvestment of government funds into up-front, needs-based grants for post-secondary students.

“The new Tuition Access Bursary will significantly reduce the burden of debt New Brunswick’s post-secondary students face, and unlike tax credits, it will provide upfront assistance,“ said Annie Sherry, NBSA Board Chair.

“There is still a lot to be done to improve our post-secondary education system. However, the introduction of this program is a huge win for students and a historic step forward, and we applaud government for taking it.”

The Tuition Access Bursary will take effect for the 2016-17 academic year. It is expected to benefit an estimated 7,100 students.

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Student Reaction To Budget Mixed

Fredericton, NB – New Brunswick post-secondary students were disappointed to see an operating grant freeze and tuition hike in today’s provincial budget, but remain optimistic about forthcoming consultations surrounding financial aid.

The 2016-17 Budget froze operating grants to universities for the second year in a row and capped tuition increases for New Brunswick students at 2%. No cap was imposed on tuition fees for out-of-province or international students.

“Knowing that significant reductions to university operating grants had been considered, we’re pleased to see government not making those cuts,“ said Lindsay Handren, NBSA Executive Director.

“However, by freezing operating grants and increasing tuition, it is placing more of the financial burden of pursuing a post-secondary education on students.”

New Brunswick ranks eighth out of the ten Canadian provinces in terms of per-student public funding to universities. It ranks fourth in terms of tuition fees.

A commitment to developing a new tuition assistance program in consultation with student groups was also contained within the Budget. Cost presents a significant barrier to access, with New Brunswick students graduating with debt holding the highest average debt in Canada at $35,200.

“Though this budget could have been worse for students, it certainly could have been better,” said Annie Sherry, NBSA Board Chair. “We continue to be concerned about the high debt levels and comparatively low levels of student financial aid here in New Brunswick.”

“We are also concerned about the impact differential tuition for out-of-province students could have on enrolment and on this province’s future labour force.”

The Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission recently observed a one-year decline in enrolment of 5.2% at New Brunswick universities.

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