New Brunswick

Free tuition plan 'flawed,' says career college group

Private colleges in New Brunswick say the Gallant government should also help pay for low income students to attend their institutions.

Plan will limit the choices for low-income students says Crandall University official

Private colleges in New Brunswick say the Gallant government should also help pay for low income students to attend their institutions.

Private colleges and universities in New Brunswick also want low-income students who attend their schools to be able to qualify for bursaries the province will make available to students at publicly funded institutions.
Last week, the province announced plans to cover the cost of tuition for students from families with an annual income of $60,000 or less as long as they attend public universities or community college in New Brunswick.  

That's led the New Brunswick Association of Career Colleges to ask for the same help for students who attend its schools.

Association president Dale Ritchie of McKenzie College in Moncton said the rules were not well thought out and are "fundamentally flawed."

"Helping students, especially those in low income families is always a good idea and we fully support that, but we're here as advocates for the thousands of students, and their hard-working parents, who've been harshly discriminated against and have been overlooked by these changes," said Ritchie.

The rules need to be fixed immediately, he said.

Ritchie agreed private schools are profit-driven, but he also noted they receive no financial support from government.

And, he said, graduates of the New Brunswick Community College system cost tax payers $26,000 each.

Crandall U concerns

Jon Ohlhauser, the vice-president at Crandall University, said the idea of helping low-income students is a good one, but he was disappointed when he looked into the details of the new program.

Jon Ohlhauser is Crandall University's vice-president for academic affairs. (Crandall University)
"We recognized that there was a significant reduction in the choice that students could make ... related to that free tuition," said Olhauser.

Crandall is a private Christian liberal arts university in Moncton.

Olhauser said private colleges have never been excluded before from tuition-assistance programs and all have met the qualifications for students to receive provincial student loans.

We recognized that there was a significant reduction in the choice that students could make ... related to that free tuition- Jon Ohlhauser, Crandall University vice president

"So they've given all of us the rigorous testing to say 'Do you qualify for that,'"  Ohlhauser said.

Ohlhauser said the Ontario model that New Brunswick was supposed to follow doesn't limit help to students at public colleges and universities.

"Ontario's program is set at $50,000 but it doesn't prejudice any of the institutions, it doesn't limit students choices," he said.

Ritchie said career colleges weren't consulted about the province's plan before it was announced.

He also said people motivated to get into the workforce faster often choose private colleges, both because of the shorter duration of course work and the fact the schools often offer training unavailable elsewhere.

Private schools want meeting with minister

The private schools have spoken with MLAs on both sides of the legislature and hope to speak soon to Post-secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Francine Landry.

The TAB program was introduced in April by former Post-Secondary Education Minister Francine Landry. (CBC)
In an emailed statement, Landry said the government has some say in the public post-secondary system.

"For example, in our recent budget we announced a two per cent cap to tuition increases at publicly funded institutions," Landry stated.

She said by introducing bursaries for low-income families, the province ensures students from the province can afford to attend post-secondary education at home.

Landry also said New Brunswick students who choose a private college or university "are still eligible for a range of programming that already exists including student loans, the NB Bursary, federal grants and federal loans."

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