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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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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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

Press Releases

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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