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Student unions across New Brunswick call for no more cuts to post-secondary education

Emelyana Titarenko, right, president of the Mount Allison Students’ Union and chair of the New Brunswick Student Alliance, presents Paige Percy, an intern with local MLA Megan Mitton’s office, with a letter outlining students’ concerns over cuts to provincial tuition and debt relief programs. They are both standing in front of the ‘wall of debt’ that shows the amounts Mount Allison students owe for their university experience.
Emelyana Titarenko, right, president of the Mount Allison Students’ Union and chair of the New Brunswick Student Alliance, presents Paige Percy, an intern with local MLA Megan Mitton’s office, with a letter outlining students’ concerns over cuts to provincial tuition and debt relief programs. They are both standing in front of the ‘wall of debt’ that shows the amounts Mount Allison students owe for their university experience. - Katie Tower

Changes to tuition relief programs greatly impacts students’ debt load

SACKVILLE, N.B. —

No more cuts to post-secondary education.

That was the call from university students throughout New Brunswick last week as they assembled on their campuses and made their demands to the provincial government as part of their #DontCutOurFuture campaign on Thursday.

Emelyana Titarenko, president of the Mount Allison Students’ Union and chair of the New Brunswick Student Alliance, said the campaign addresses the “unfair” changes made to student financial aid this past spring.

“We want the government of New Brunswick to understand that changes that affect our future should not be made without student input,” said Titarenko. “In fact, we believe that the government should make post-secondary education a priority through developing a comprehensive vision for the future of post-secondary education, as the sector plays a critical role for the province's future.”

The changes included cuts to the free tuition program and the tuition relief for the middle class, as well as the elimination of the timely completion benefit.

Titarenko said the campaign aims to address the fact that the changes had a severe impact on students’ access to affordable post-secondary education within the province.

Students from Mount Allison University and The University of New Brunswick Saint John came together on their campus quads in a show of support, while the University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University Students Unions led their members to the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly on Thursday afternoon.

In the 2017/18 academic year, 6,319 low-income students across the province were able to attend a post-secondary institution through upfront, non-repayable needs-based grants. As well, up until the cuts, students were able to benefit from the Timely Completion Benefit which acted as a debt relief program. At Mount Allison, students read testimonies and a letter presented to the MLA’s office and also added bricks to the wall of debt.

In 2014, Statistics Canada reported that New Brunswick’s post-secondary graduates had the highest average student debt in Canada at $35,200 compared to the national average of $22,300.

Titarenko said this campaign calls on the provincial government to develop a collaborative strategic vision for the province's post-secondary education sector which includes investments into upfront, non-repayable needs-based grants and an accessible debt relief program.

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