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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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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Student Debt Map a Reminder of Action Needed

Fredericton, NB – A student debt map compiled by Consolidated Credit Counseling Services (CCCS) has post-secondary students in New Brunswick calling on government to take action and address high levels of student debt.

The map, which incorporated data on both average student debt and tuition levels, ranked New Brunswick first among all ten Canadian provinces by degree of debt and second in terms of tuition fees. Students in the province graduating with debt owe an average of $35,200 – well above the national average of $22,300.

“These numbers are discouraging, but they should not be surprising,” said Lindsay Handren, NBSA Executive Director. “The data on student debt was first made available last year. Unfortunately, government has yet to take any concrete steps toward reducing New Brunswick students’ high debt levels.”

Recent government decisions to raise the debt-cap for the Timely Completion Benefit and eliminate the New Brunswick Tuition Rebate have placed added financial strain on students and recent graduates. With no new investment, debt levels can be expected to rise.

The higher a student’s debt, the more likely he or she is to leave the province at graduation.

“The importance of retaining post-secondary graduates cannot be overstated,“ said Katie Davey, NBSA Board Vice-Chair. “These individuals will be vital to New Brunswick’s economic and demographic recovery.”

“New Brunswick is failing to capture the full potential of its youth. To do that, government needs to invest in affordable education and ensure that post-secondary students are adequately supported both during and after their studies. We strongly encourage government to take action on this issue and slow the exodus of youth from our province.”

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Investment in Education Must Extend to Include Post-Secondary

Fredericton, NB – Post-secondary students in New Brunswick are urging government not to forget about them, following recent commitments to invest heavily in education and early childhood development.

The New Brunswick government has budgeted sizable amounts for education and early childhood development. Speaking at events across the province last week, Premier Brian Gallant committed his government to budgeting the most ever in the area over four years.

“We commend government for its commitment to invest in the public school system,” said Lindsay Handren, NBSA Executive Director. “However, for a growing number of New Brunswick’s youth, the pursuit of their education does not end with high school – and neither should government’s investment in them.”

New Brunswick 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.

Low levels of government support have contributed to post-secondary students in New Brunswick graduating with debt facing the highest average debt at $35,200, well above the national average of $22,300.

Upwards of 70% of jobs created in the next seven years are expected to be in occupations requiring a post-secondary degree.

“Education is a continuum, and it extends from early childhood development to graduation from a post-secondary program,” said Annie Sherry, NBSA Board Chair. “In order to ensure that New Brunswick’s youth are properly educated and prepared for the workforce, government must be willing to pay its share at every stage.“

“The accessibility, affordability, and quality of post-secondary education in New Brunswick are paramount to student success and to the success of our provincial economy. We strongly urge government to invest in that education.”

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