First advocacy week focused on financial aid

Elizabeth Murphy and Luke Robertson meeting with Senator Noel Kinsella at the federal advocacy week (CASA relations/Submitted)
Elizabeth Murphy and Luke Robertson meeting with Senator Noel Kinsella at the federal advocacy week (CASA relations/Submitted)

Student unions from across the province came together for the first ever New Brunswick Student Alliance Advocacy Week.

Representatives from St. Thomas, Mt. Allison, UNBF and UNBSJ had 21 meetings between Feb. 3 to 7, 18 of which were with MLAs, said STU student union president, Elizabeth Murphy.

Murphy said the week went well for a first-time event that focused on financial aid.

“We were really well-received, I think,” said Murphy. “[Post-secondary education minister] Jody Carr stopped by the SUB yesterday and he said he heard positive feedback from the MLAs.”

Murphy said they were treated professionally and thinks the “asks” were treated seriously.

An example of one of the “asks” was to re-evaluate the student financial assistance program, particularly in the area where students are being penalized for having jobs.

Right now, a student can make $100 per week without being docked by student loans. Anything over the limit would be taken off their student loan. Murphy said one of the “asks” was to raise that to $200 to help students who are working.

“This is a way to incentivise people who want to work but also not punish those who are trying to help fund their education,” said Murphy.

This event was the same week the Alward government released their provincial budget with $8.2 million being saved in the post-secondary education, training and labour department.

“[The] government had a rare opportunity with this budget to translate savings into investment,” said NBSA executive director Pat Joyce in a news release. “Unfortunately, these savings were not passed along to students in need of financial support or debt relief.”

Murphy said the government had an opportunity to give these savings back to students but didn’t because of the financial state of the province.

“One of our government’s bigger goals is to balance the budget so when they have savings, they don’t reinvest them.”

Murphy said although this was brought up as a side bar during some of the meetings, the group of students focused their discussions on the “asks” they were giving to the government.

“We were trying to be able to build a positive report and start off with things we can do and that we can still do,” said Murphy.

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