Ontario's student aid plan much more generous than N.B.'s

Ontario's student aid plan is substantially more generous to every income group, even though New Brunswick ministers have been suggesting the opposite.

Comparison shows Ontario aid package better, despite N.B. government claims

Ontario's new student aid program offers more money to students than New Brunswick's, no matter what the income bracket. (nerdmeister, Flickr cc)

A side-by-side comparison of so-called "free tuition" student aid plans proposed in Ontario and New Brunswick shows the Ontario plan to be substantially more generous to every income group, even though New Brunswick ministers have been suggesting the opposite.

"Their [Ontario] threshold is $50,000 not $60,000 like us in New Brunswick which is very generous or more generous than Ontario," Post Secondary Education Minister Francine Landry told reporters on Wednesday.

Energy Minister Donald Arsenault made a similar claim on CBC's political panel last month.

But student aid expert Alex Usher says his analysis shows every student will receive a more generous "tuition" grant from Ontario than they will from New Brunswick under the two new programs no matter what income group they are in, often thousands of dollars more.

New Brunswick university students only get student aid if their family income is below $60,000 (CBC)
According to Usher, New Brunswick students from families with incomes below $45,000 attending university this fall will be eligible for $4,000 grants, compared to $6,000 in Ontario when its program launches in September 2017.

For students from families with incomes between $45,000 and $60,000, the two systems begin to converge with Ontario students getting $1,000 more if their parents make $50,000 and the two plans paying roughly the same amounts at $60,000.

At income levels above $60,000 however, grants in New Brunswick drop to zero, while they slowly decline in Ontario.

For example, according to Usher, the Ontario program will still pay a $5,000 tuition grant to a student from a $75,000 family, $3,000 to a student from a $90,000 family and $2,000 to a student from a $105,000 family.

"You can see the huge difference the step-function makes," Usher wrote in an email to CBC News accompanying his comparison of the two programs.

Usher says Ontario has poured 85% of all the money being cut from current student aid programs into its new grant program while New Brunswick is spending only 50 per cent of the $50 million it has taken from three other student aid programs over the last two years.

Students with family incomes below $45,000 will be eligible for grants of $4,000 this fall in New Brunswick. (Marcelo Del Pozo/Reuters)
"They didn't use all that extra money to create a phase-out. They could have but chose not to," said Usher in an earlier interview last week.

Minister not aware

Asked about that difference by CBC's Harry Forestell on Wednesday, Landry said she did not realize the Ontario system worked that way, tapering new tuition grants to students off gradually instead of halting them cold at $60,000 like New Brunswick.

"Ontario has a sliding scale, New Brunswick doesn't," said Forestell. "I wasn't aware of that. I can check that out," replied Landry.

"That's an important part of the Ontario program though," continued Forestell before Landry's aide intervened. "Ok, Minister needs to get to her next meeting," said the aide as Landry left.