New Brunswick — Among yesterday’s announced budget cuts was one change that doesn’t sit well with many of the province’s youth. According to minister of finance Roger Melanson, the New Brunswick Tuition Rebate program is being cut in order to better allocate the funds. “We feel there are better ways to support students who need it most. The New Brunswick Tuition Rebate helped only those students who have already graduated and are collecting salaries. It did nothing to help needy students enter the system in the first place,” said Melanson.
The tuition rebate website has already been updated to say “PLEASE NOTE: As announced as part of its 2015-2016 Budget, government will be eliminating the New Brunswick Tuition Rebate in order to refocus its resources to help students enter the postsecondary system. Further details to follow.”
A petition was started on Change.org that garnered more than 10,000 signatures within the first evening of its inception. The petition description states:
“The People of New Brunswick are requesting the reinstatement of the New Brunswick Tuition Rebate Program. Eliminating the program will fail to serve the citizens of New Brunswick going forward.
“A large number of graduating students leave our province. Many who have chosen to stay in recent years have done so due to the tuition rebate program. A large number of tuition rebate recipients use this benefit to get themselves out of debt and make down payments on their first homes, thus stimulating the economy and keeping skilled individuals in NB. Eliminating the tuition rebate is short-sighted and needs to be reversed. This benefit affects individuals and families who are trying to make it in NB, removing it alienates them and their integral role in moving NB forward.”
Eric Savoie, a graduate living and working in New Brunswick, has signed the petition and emailed Roger Melanson directly. “New Brunswick needs to fix its deficit but hemorrhaging young educated people hardly seems like the way to do it,” he said in the email. “The only reason for graduates to stay in New Brunswick now is to cast a vote when the next election comes around. Fortunately for your party I don’t think there will be many of us left after this catastrophe of a decision. You announced more aid for students who are new to the school system. But how do you justify screwing over graduates who did not receive this new aid you are talking about? We had to pay full price going in and are now paying full price coming out.”
Holly Blaquiere, another frustrated recent grad, agrees with Savoie’s sentiment. “I graduated in May of 2014 with just above $35,000 in student debt. I wasn’t eligible for the Timely Completion Benefit because I didn’t finish in 4 years. I knew that was out so I looked into other things to help with my debt, and found the tuition rebate, which I intended to apply for once I started paying New Brunswick taxes.
“It was easy for me to get money to go to university in the first place via student loans; it’s getting out with tons of debt that is the hard part when jobs for new graduates are scarce and the yearly wage is low,” she continued. “I think rather than cancelling the program point blank, they should look at restructuring it instead. Right now its open to ANYONE who has gone to any postsecondary institution in the world who comes to New Brunswick to work and is a New Brunswick resident. They could restrict it to New Brunswickers, or people who have gone to New Brunswick institutions and have stayed here. Axing it completely is just another incentive for people to leave the province.”
On many occasions the provincial government has stated the importance of keeping and attracting youth in the province to stay and work after graduation. The government has suggested that a tuition freeze will be put in place to better serve students, but just 2 years ago St. Thomas University hiked their tuition rates, ignored the suggested tuition cap at the time and received no blockage from the provincial government. The upcoming tuition freeze would allegedly not allow for any wiggle-room.
For now it appears that graduates can still apply for the rebate for the 2014 taxation period.
The full 2015-16 economic outlook can be viewed here: