The Government of New Brunswick’s new Tuition Access Bursary (TAB) is taking effect this academic year. New Brunswick students from families with a gross income of $60,000 or less will be given an upfront bursary to cover the cost of tuition and fees. Despite this, some students and graduates are concerned about the changes that were announced in April.
Brian Gallant, the premier of New Brunswick, stated in a press conference that the TAB is an effort to make post-secondary education more accessible and affordable.
“We are doing this so university and college tuition can now be free for low-income and middle-class New Brunswick families,” said Gallant.
An estimated 7,100 students, or about 23 per cent of resident New Brunswick students, will qualify for the bursary. According to a CBC report done in May, the TAB is replacing many of New Brunswick’s older student aid programs. The same report stated that the government plans to cut $50 million dollars’ worth of student aid programs that were in place before the TAB. The government is spending approximately $25 million on the TAB.
These changes to student aid will affect more than 40,000 New Brunswick students and graduates, some of whom do not qualify for the TAB. Certain already-existing bursaries and grants will continue to be offered by the province.
Programs that have been cut include a tuition rebate scheme for graduates who stayed to work in-province. The new policy also makes it more difficult to receive the Timely Completion Benefit, a program that forgives particularly high cases of student debt. The CBC reported that the debt threshold for this program has been raised from $26,000 to $32,000.
The bursary does not provide assistance to working-class, part-time students. It also does not apply to students who attend private colleges and universities who would otherwise qualify for the bursary.
Of the requirements to qualify for the bursary, fourth-year fine arts student Kevin Melanson of Moncton, N.B. said, “my parents make a tiny bit more than the [$60,000] cap… I do not qualify. If your family is struggling for money, yeah, it makes sense that you would get free tuition. But there are families like mine that do alright, and doing alright isn’t enough to pay for university.”
Melanson had a suggestion: “Instead of certain people getting free tuition, give everyone better tuition,” he said. “That’s a better plan.”
The provincial government estimated in a press release that about 50 per cent of students who apply for financial assistance through the province will qualify. The government expects more qualifying New Brunswickers to enroll in post-secondary institutions as a result of the bursary.