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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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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