Francine Landry leaves door open to expanding free tuition program
University of New Brunswick president Eddy Campbell says he wouldn't support free tuition for all students
Post–Secondary Education Minister Francine Landry is leaving open the possibility of extending the offer of free tuition to all students in future years.
The provincial government announced a plan on Thursday that would offer free tuition for students coming from families with incomes of less than $60,000.
Premier Brian Gallant hailed the student financial assistance program as "historic."
The Tuition Access Bursary is aimed at the lowest income families, but the post–secondary education minister said it could be expanded in the future.
"This is a good step towards that," Landry said on Thursday.
"This is certainly a goal that we can work on and this is a first step of a multi–year plan. So certainly we will look at other options and helping the most in need was certainly the priority for our government."
Students from families with incomes higher than $60,000 still have access to other student loans and bursaries.
The $60,000 threshold dovetails with a federal bursary that is also aimed at helping low–income and middle–class families.
The possibility of free tuition coming to New Brunswick is not being endorsed by the president of the province's largest university.
Eddy Campbell, the president of the University of New Brunswick, said he would not support the provincial government extending the program to cover all students.
"Tuition is a complicated issue. There is both a public and private good involved," Campbell said.
"I do think we live in a society where people value what they pay for. I would also be concerned about how to sustain the quality in our institutions without the support that we get from tuition fees."
Studying bursary program
The possibility of free tuition for all New Brunswick students may be closer now than it was before the announcement, but one student leader said it is still an unlikely outcome.
But Handren said the cash–strapped provincial government would be hard–pressed to find the money to cover the tuition for all students.
"Realistically, I don't think this province is ever going to be in the situation where it is fully funding tuition for everyone, and fully funding universities to the extent that they can continue to provide a high quality education without having tuition fees being collected," she said.
Instead of waiting for free tuition for all students, Handren said she would like the provincial government to start tracking information to see how well the program performs in creating a more accessible higher education system.
She said it might become evident in a few years that the income threshold needs to be changed.
"I think what this government is going to have to do is run the bursary for two, three or four years and look at the data and see how it is increasing access, see if there is maybe another group that they could really assist in increasing that threshold by $10,000 or $20,000," Handren said.