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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Post-Secondary Students Outline Priorities for 2015-16

Fredericton, NB – Post-secondary students in New Brunswick are looking forward to presenting their ideas for a better post-secondary education system to government, university administrators, and faculty following the release of ‘Post-Secondary Education – Strategic Investments for a Better New Brunswick’.

Student leaders from four university campuses across the province will hold meetings in Fredericton next week as part of the New Brunswick Student Alliance’s annual Advocacy Week.

The recently released document will inform those meetings.

“The recommendations outlined in this document represent what New Brunswick’s post-secondary students believe to be strategic investments for their government,“ said Lindsay Handren, NBSA Executive Director.

“They offer a means of getting the province’s youth, its institutions, and ultimately its labour force back on track.”

The document touches on a number of topics including financial aid, international student support, experiential learning, and the public funding of New Brunswick’s post-secondary institutions. It offers eight recommendations to government.

Included among those recommendations are the reallocation of funds from the scrapped Tuition Rebate into needs-based grants and a reversal of the controversial decision to increase the debt-cap on the Timely Completion Benefit.

“Making strategic investments in the post-secondary education system now will be key to New Brunswick’s success in the long-term,” said Annie Sherry, NBSA Board Chair. “With over 60% of job openings in the next decade expected to require a post-secondary education, ensuring that students have access to a high-quality education and the right social supports has never been more important.”

“We all want a strong and productive provincial economy. To get there, there is no investment more strategic than an investment in our youth.”

Read our new advocacy document in full here.

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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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