Students upset over financial aid changes

New Brunswick post-secondary students are preparing to return to school in September and some are finding out they may no longer qualify for financial assistance.
Post-secondary students are preparing to return to school in September and some are finding out they may no longer qualify for financial help 1:45

New Brunswick post-secondary students are preparing to return to school in September and some are finding out they may no longer qualify for financial assistance from the provincial government.

Finance Minister Blaine Higgs announced in his March budget the provincial government would save $1.6 million annually by reinstating the parental contribution policy in student loan assessments.

The move was immediately criticized by student groups, but now individual students are starting to realize the impact of the cost-cutting initiative.

Jennifer Purdue, a third-year student at the University of New Brunswick, said she needs a student loan this year but she is now worried the policy change could block her from accessing any financial help.

"My parents haven't been supporting me financially. So I've been putting myself through school," Purdue said.

The university student said the provincial government may use her father's income to disqualify her from receiving a student loan but not factor in other financial considerations.

"I feel the government will not take into account everything else that factors into that [family] income because it's substantial on paper but in practice it's really not," she said.

The former Liberal government ended the parental and spousal contribution requirements in 2006 within days of forming government. Former premier Shawn Graham said the decision would remove "some of the roadblocks to higher education."

Although the Progressive Conservative announced the student aid policy in March, one student leader said he doesn't believe many young people are aware of the change.

Mark Livingstone, president of the student union at St. Thomas University, said he doesn't think students are prepared for the new rules.

"Right now everyone is at home doing summer work. But in the next month, it will get busy and there will be a lot of students upset by what's going on," Livingstone said.

"Hopefully people won't be forced to drop out."