New Brunswick’s Tuition Access Bursary (TAB) comes with a credit check for many students which has some saying it could be missed out on by those who need it most.
Independent students, those 22 and older, are required to complete a credit check to qualify for the TAB program however some say that alienates many who would benefit from the bursary.
“Low-income students who are being given access to Canada student loans are being denied access to the new New Brunswick bursary because there’s a different bar they have to meet with respect to their credit rating,” explained Fredericton South MLA David Coon. “I have a constituent for example who was successful in obtaining a Canada student loan from the federal government but was denied the provincial bursary. This doesn’t make any sense.”
“The whole point of the provincial bursary program was to provide access to post-secondary education for low-income New Brunswickers,” said Coon.
The program provides free tuition for New Brunswick students coming from families with an annual income of $60,000 or less, provided they attend a publicly funded university or college.
It was added this year to the existing list of financial aid options meaning those applying go through the same process.
“When a student applies to financial services the first thing, he’ll get assessed,” said New Brunswick Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Don Arsenault. “Then you’ll have the New Brunswick bursary, the Canada student grant for low-income or middle-income or dependent or disability and also TAB is part of those bursaries as well.”
“Nothing has changed in terms of policies and what not. These policies have been in place for a number of years now,” explained Arsenault.
The opposition views the rules surrounding TAB as limiting and believes more changes are needed to help those who need it most.
“My concern is that it’s actually making post-secondary education less accessible to the majority of people in New Brunswick,” said Fredericton West-Hanwell MLA Brian Macdonald.
The New Brunswick Student Alliance say these concerns echo ones that have been raised time and again in the past and that re-evaluation on the government’s part is necessary to ensure students get what they need to attend university and college.
“Financial aid at the very core of it is meant to enhance accessibility and affordability of post-secondary education,” said Travis Daley, NB Student Alliance chair. “If any program including student loan programs aren’t achieving that goal then it is of value to the government to go back and review that process.”
Arsenault says when it comes to student-raised concerns, the government is listening and hopes to make improvements to programs like TAB in the future.
“The important thing is we pass legislation and we help those who need it most,” said Arsenault. “And we work towards the next budget to see if we can increase and enhance the program.”