Province expands tuition relief programs

Premier Brian Gallant announced a tuition relief program for students who don’t qualify for the Tuition Access Bursary on Feb. 23.

At a press conference in the Sir James Dunn Hall Off-Campus lounge on St. Thomas University’s campus, Gallant said the Tuition Relief for the Middle Class program will provide a non-repayable provincial bursary of up to 98 per cent of students’ tuition, depending on family size and income.

The TRMC basic criteria is the same as TAB’s: Students must be New Brunswick residents and enrolled full time in an undergraduate degree, diploma or certificate program at a publicly funded university or college in the province. This includes Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Social Work programs.

Gallant called the criteria of determining coverage a “progressive scale,” a term reminiscent of the “sliding scale” model the New Brunswick Student Alliance has been advocating for since the TAB was announced. The amount of tuition covered decreases as a student’s family income increases. The maximum income a family can make while receiving coverage depends on the size of the family as well.

For a family with one or two children, the cut-off point is $75,000. For a family with three children, it’s $90,000. Four children is $100,000, five is $108,000, six is $116,500 and seven or more is $123,500.

Therefore, someone in a family of two making $80,000 will not qualify, and a family of two earning $70,000 would get more coverage than a family the same size making $72,000.

Gallant said the federal government’s progressive income thresholds for Canada Student Grants were used to determine the TRMC thresholds.

“This will help make post-secondary education more accessible and affordable for families with multiple children and those in the middle class attending university of community college,” Gallant said.

Jessica Donovan, a student at St. Thomas, said she is happy for this announcement but she’s disappointed because the program doesn’t apply to her.

“I’m a part-time student and I feel that we’re always excluded from these great benefits that are taking place,” she said. “We also have large tuitions, we’ve just done it over an expanded period because we’re trying to be [independent],” she said.

Robert Burroughs, executive director of the NBSA, said this is a good start. He said this program is a plausible extension of the TAB.

“It’s effectively what we were asking for,” he said.

He said the NBSA’s next priority is to ensure that some of the technical details work for students.

“Stuff like, ‘When does the credit check come into play?'” he said.

He said student debt remains a priority.

“We have a standard policy on lowering the debt cap here in New Brunswick.”

Gallant also announced international students will now be covered under provincial healthcare. More on that here.

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