New Brunswick announces tuition assistance for middle class families

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New Brunswick announces tuition assistance for middle class families
WATCH ABOVE: Amid criticisms of overspending, Premier Brian Gallant announced more funding for post-secondary students. Global's Jeremy Keefe has the details – Feb 23, 2017

The New Brunswick government has announced it is creating a program to provide assistance for post-secondary students from middle class families.

READ MORE: New Brunswick government defends Tuition Access Bursary

Unlike the Tuition Access Bursary (TAB) announced last year, the Tuition Relief for the Middle Class (TRMC) program will pay a portion of tuition dependent on the family’s size and income. Under this new program, depending on income and family size, up to 98 per cent could be covered.

The TRMC program will be implemented for the upcoming year and will only be available to students from families who make more than $60,000. Students can only access the program if they will be or are enrolled in an undergraduate degree, diploma or certificate program at a public institution on or after Aug. 1.

Premier Brian Gallant said during a news conference Thursday that the program would help “make post-secondary education more accessible by providing upfront support for students.”

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“We recognize that if somebody has several children it can be that much more difficult to send them to university or college, and that’s what this program will address,” Gallant said.

READ MORE: New Brunswick post-secondary funding announced, details kept quiet

Last year the TAB program was announced to cover tuition for students from low- and middle class families with an annual income of less than $60,000, but this drew criticism from some, including student representatives due to the hard cutoff on who could qualify for the funding.

Students find benefit, issue with program

Following Thursday’s announcement, student representatives said they feel the new program will provide more assistance to a wider range of students.

“The Tuition Access Bursary, TAB, was a first step; this is the second step,” said University of New Brunswick (UNB) Student Union president Travis Daley. “We’re seeing more growth around student financial aid and an understanding that students are an economic driver in this province. Ensuring that there’s relief for students across the board will make a major impact in possibly enrolment and definitely access for students to post-secondary education.”

Robert Burroughs, executive director of the New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA), said the TRMC better meets students’ needs.

“We’ve seen an extension to the free tuition program,” Burroughs said. “It is under a new name but it is effectively what the NBSA and the students of New Brunswick have been asking for.”

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There were some, however, who said they felt left out from the tuition assistance – part-time students.

READ MORE: Students association doesn’t want private institutions included in Tuition Access Bursary program

Jessica Donovan, a part-time student at St. Thomas University, said she’s happy more assistance is being provided for students but is disappointed she will be unable to access the funding.

“I think it’s a great thing for future students and stuff, the only thing is … I feel that we’re always excluded from these great benefits that are taking place,” Donovan said. “So I just want to know when part-time students are going to get help as well because we also have large tuitions – we’ve just done it over an expanded period.”

To be considered for the grant program, students must apply for student financial assistance programs – expected to be available starting June 1 – then they will be notified what programs they are eligible for.

A list of who can access the new program and the maximum income cutoff for family size can be found below:

  • Single or two-person family — Up to $75,000 annual income
  • Three-person family — Annual income up to $90,000
  • Four-person family — Making up to $100,000 annually
  • Five-person family — Annual income up to $108,500
  • Six-person family — Annual income up to $116,500
  • Family of seven people or more — Earning up to $123,500 annually

In an example cited by Gallant,  a family of three making $65,000 a year and paying a tuition of $6,200 for one child, could have up to 89 per cent of their costs paid for through a mixture of the new provincial grant and the Canada Student Grant (CSG). Family income thresholds used for the CSG were also used for the TRMC and adjusted for New Brunswick wages.

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Alternatively, a family of five that makes $100,000 a year would be able to access about $1,200 from the federal grant for each child enrolled in a post-secondary student but only $874 from the province – 34 per cent of tuition covered.

READ MORE: N.B. government in talks with private colleges over Tuition Access Bursary inclusion

Health care coverage

Thursday’s announcement wasn’t only about tuition assistance, as the province announced it would also be footing the bill for international students’ health care coverage to keep out-of-pocket expenses down.

“It’s a good way to show thanks,” said Kjeld Conyers-Steede, vice president external affairs for UNB Students’ Representative Council.

“International students contribute close to $250 million to New Brunswick’s GDP (gross domestic product) and this is just a small token, the foundation of encouraging international students to stay in the province once they graduate.”

International students studying at the province’s universities and community colleges will be able to receive coverage.

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